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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Island of broken dreams is the key character in this remarkable book by a master storyteller.
San Miguel is a tiny, desolate island off the west coast of America opposite Santa Barbara. It is an inhospitable place as far as humans, trees and plants are concerned though the sheep appear to thrive. Since the 1880s and throughout harsh economic times, the island has provided some sort of a "living" for anyone foolhardy enough to take on the management of the wool...
Published 24 months ago by Sue Kichenside

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2.0 out of 5 stars It was like the author didn't know what to do with Edith ...
The first section of this book was reasonably interesting and there were some vivid descriptions of island life. However the sudden change from the story of the Waters family to another story, that of the Lester family, left me feeling cheated. It was like the author didn't know what to do with Edith once she escaped from the island. From there on I dipped and skipped...
Published 4 months ago by Joyce


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Island of broken dreams is the key character in this remarkable book by a master storyteller., 18 Dec 2012
By 
Sue Kichenside - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: San Miguel (Hardcover)
San Miguel is a tiny, desolate island off the west coast of America opposite Santa Barbara. It is an inhospitable place as far as humans, trees and plants are concerned though the sheep appear to thrive. Since the 1880s and throughout harsh economic times, the island has provided some sort of a "living" for anyone foolhardy enough to take on the management of the wool business, wool - and heartache - being the only things the island seems capable of producing.

The book opens, in 1888, with Marantha's story. Will Waters, Marantha's second husband, has persuaded her that the island's climate will be good for her tuberculosis; nothing could be further from the case. Nevertheless, Will drags Marantha, her adopted daughter Edith and their cook Ida to this new life on a remote and windswept island.

The story continues with Edith and her wretched attempts to escape from San Miguel. We then move to the 1930s. Once again, there are hard economic choices to be made and in this third and final part of the book, we meet Elise and Herbie Lester who genuinely love the place and want nothing more than to bring up a family there in peace and tranquillity.

Whilst all the characters are movingly conveyed with complete conviction and credibility, it is San Miguel which is the hero - or rather, the anti-hero - of the book. It is a formidable place realised by a formidable writer. The book is based on three real life stories.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE:

As an avid reader, I am absolutely ashamed to say that I knew nothing of T.C. Boyle's work before reading San Miguel. Indeed, so exquisitely does Mr Boyle capture the very essence of womanhood with his empathetic portrayals of his three main female protagonists, that I actually wondered whether the T and C stood for female names! (I never look at the back fly leaf until the end of a book.) This is a memorable book from a master storyteller and I couldn't recommend it more highly.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging, cosmic in scope, but movingly human, 29 Oct 2012
This review is from: San Miguel (Hardcover)
T C Boyle's writing is utterly engaging. He draws his characters deeply, vividly, and empathetically. You get to know them. Their very personal life stories are set in the context of major cosmic issues - the hostility of nature intertwined with the hurt, brutality and warfare of humanity. And yet there is redemptive grace too, irrepressible joys, hospitality. Will Waters is totally in the grasp of the relentless familiar cycle of brutality. The war and the island's tough nature have brutalised him, and he cruelly brutalises Maranatha and Edith. His successor generation, Herbie Lester is war wounded rather than brutalised, and internalises this wound, though this still hurts the wife and daughters he loves. I wanted the book to finish because of the urge to know how the story ended, but I wanted it not to end since I'd so enjoyed feeling part of the event each day I read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars `The island was crushing her, she'd known it all along', 16 April 2013
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: San Miguel (Hardcover)
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This is a bleak and harsh read, as desolate as the eponymous, unwelcoming island which is almost a character in its own right. Focalised through three women, and set between 1888 and sometime after the second world war, there is little dialogue or external drama in this book, and instead the tensions are internalised. Misunderstanding and gulfs of experience open up between characters, rendering them isolated and frequently shorn of human warmth, even if unintentionally.

The narrative is punctuated by common events: the arrival of the sheep-shearers, the discovery of mice, Christmas. And even the war feels distant as the years flit by.

Ultimately this contrasts the futility and littleness of human lives with the enduring island which remains indifferent to the lives which have been lived upon it.

So not a book to choose if you're feeling even the slightest bit down as this certainly isn't a consoling read. I admired the writing, the control, and the restraint of the book but the austerity of the emotional vision just didn't speak to me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars master of the universe, 21 Feb 2013
By 
mfl (london) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: San Miguel (Hardcover)
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San Miguel is T C Boyle's 14th novel. Throw in a long list of published short stories. If you haven't read nor heard of him, it's perhaps no surprise. Boyle is rarely visited by Hollywood and maybe that's because they don't come knocking or he doesn't answer. Backcover big life topics that make for the bestseller easy reads? Nope. At least if you've been here before that might be mildly contentious; for after all, T C Boyle is one of American fiction's finest life chroniclers. In a quiet corner sits any Boyle book where humankind is laid out universe large and glinting....

For now Boyle seems to take his women and his island life very seriously. San Miguel is third in an unconnected run of novels that deal vicariously with the same. Sitting and pondering all from his Santa Barbara home it all seems very close to home. That this is another fictional account of actual events needs to show inspiration enough.

If ever a reader wants to immerse in an alterlife then San Miguel delivers in the perfect script. Over several generations we are borne by the tide to the wilderness of the island and all from the perspective of its women. There is doom and gloom, some joy and much heartbreak but nonetheless some generous affirmation of life in windy conditions. Come the end you will be sad to leave. San Miguel is a book about hardship and devotion, about family and marital obligation, warring history and geography; the human condition and how it adapts and succumbs, controls and disappears. Therein lies Boyle the chronicler, the master of emotions, vital minutia and bringing old forgotten histories and diaries to life.

San Miguel is of course another fine novel from T C Boyle. But it doubtless will not fire the literary world alight. The bestseller commuters and the kindle crime-eaters best look away now.

As effortless as his writing always is, this is a little pedestrian and one can but assume over reliant on others memoirs, without us taking the time to read the references. But and it's a big, big but... there is a guarantee that there are still bright nuggets here if you are prepared to go treasure hunt.

Either way, if you love T C Boyle get in, and if you don't, yet, get a boat.
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2.0 out of 5 stars It was like the author didn't know what to do with Edith ..., 28 July 2014
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This review is from: San Miguel (Paperback)
The first section of this book was reasonably interesting and there were some vivid descriptions of island life. However the sudden change from the story of the Waters family to another story, that of the Lester family, left me feeling cheated. It was like the author didn't know what to do with Edith once she escaped from the island. From there on I dipped and skipped to the end, the story of the Lester family was boring and insipid.
An overall very disappointing read. I was a fan of TC Boyle till now but think henceforth I will give his books a miss.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A strange book . . ., 24 May 2014
This review is from: San Miguel (Paperback)
San Miguel is this author's fourteenth novel, but the first I've read. Most of the story is set on the island of San Miguel, the most north-westerly of the California Channel Islands. It's a strange book, with no real plot as such, just narrative. It follows the lives of two pioneering families who come to the island to be sheep ranchers, and live an isolated and hard existence without many of the things mainland society takes for granted. The Waters family arrive in 1888 (Captain Waters, his wife Marantha and their adopted daughter Emily) and the second family the Lesters, arrive in 42 years later. We do not know who lived there in the meantime, following the end of the story about the Waters people.

Boyle's writing is intimate, imaginative and atmospheric. Never more so than when describing the island itself, and the effect the seasons have on the people living there. However I kept expecting to discover that the two families were related in some way, or that a new character would suddenly appear to bridge the gap between the two stories. Yet neither of these things happen. The only link seems to be the island itself, which on reflection appears to be the most prominent character of all in this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars such a good read !!, 28 April 2014
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This review is from: San Miguel (Kindle Edition)
If you have never read work by this author try this particular book - it is beautifully written - and a fascinating story - I couldn't put is down. - - and very easy to follow - a good intro to his other novels.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling read., 23 April 2014
By 
Lily (Sheffield UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: San Miguel (Hardcover)
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This is a historical novel set in 1880's and 1930's. It tells firstly the story of a woman and her Civil War veteran husband as they work the harsh life on a sheep ranch. The story switches to 1930 and tells of another family (a World War 1 veteran and his wife) and tells of their harsh lives living against the elements on the margins of society. A bleak sounding read, it is rescued by the beauty of the storytelling. Not having read Boyle before, I would certainly recommend him and am going to search out his other books.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 1 April 2014
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This review is from: San Miguel (Paperback)
This is one of the best novels I have ever read - wonderfully written, incredible, far reaching storyline - great read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Character Vs. Circumstance, 31 Mar 2014
By 
A. Miles (Al Khor, Qatar) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: San Miguel (Hardcover)
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TC Boyle is able to occupy any genre, any theme, and make it his own: Book by book, you never know whats going to come along next. In fact, I think this wild eclecticism has probably been somewhat to the detriment of him being a more widely read author.

Certainly, coming after the last few thriller-ish books I've read by him, this moving meditation on female isolation and struggle is a real curveball: Set on the titular island of the American coast, it recounts 3 true life stories of women fighting against both landscape and circumstance. As with all of Mr. Boyles books, it's beautifully written, literary yet completely accessible, and existing fans will enjoy it as much as his previous work.

Having said that, in a career that's been almost defined by atypicality, this is perhaps his most atypical, and perhaps not the one to start with if your new to him. Maybe start with 'The Tortilla Curtain' or 'Drop City'?
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San Miguel
San Miguel by T.C. Boyle (Paperback - 1 Aug 2013)
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