Highly recommended. I think it is Mitchener's best, as readable as SPACE and even more informative. What an amazing range of authority, Mitchener can write authoritatively on pre-history and the woes of space technology.
Really a series of stories using artefacts found on an archaeological dig as a theme and progressing to recent times. They are sentimental without being sloppy and possess an epic quality not found in more recent historical fiction. Though I found the earlier stories more interesting than the later ones I am pleased to have revisited the book in 2006, having first read it in the late 1960's. Michener's depiction of Stone Age life would probably be different if he were writing today - but this is hardly surprising.
Artefacts found at archaeological site are the basis for each section, or story of 'The Source'. The items which are unearthed provide the pivot or theme around which the each story is written - these relate to the period and lifestyle of the time when the artefact would have been used, and provide a continuous account of the dig. The Source is a book which is fascinating, absorbing and definitely hard to put down. Although it is a lengthy novel it never palls, and I regretted when I'd reached the final chapter. I was impressed by the amount of research that had gone into producing such a book. The characters are strong, forceful and believable; relationships are explored thoroughly yet the reader is free to form their own opinion of any/each character. Of the Michener books I've read this by far my favourite and I'm re reading it again and again since it was first published in the 1960's.
A huge book covering the stories of many different characters. The book is episodic in nature with a story from each 'era' in the history of the area in which the archeological dig is taking place. A couple of the eras are close together, so you get an overlap of characters, but mostly they are separated by significant periods of time. In each episode, at least one character is, unknowingly, descended from the main hunter/gatherer character in the first episode - these characters always have an instinctive connection with the site. As a story-telling device it is a bit contrived but doesn't detract from the story in general.
The episodes are interspersed with the contemporary on-going story of the archeologists and others associated with the site in modern-day Israel. This means that you are pulled back and forth between historical times and today. I found this helped to break up what would otherwise have been quite a heavy read. The episodic nature also means that you get a beginning/middle/end story in a bite-size chunk which makes putting it down when you need to a lot easier.
I first read the book in the 1980's and was completely absorbed by it. I knew nothing about Jewish culture and only that 'history' which I had learnt during childhood from the Bible and, of course, the more recent events in the 20th Century. The book was an interesting introduction to Jewish culture and made me think about its origins. It was also interesting to see the parallel history of other cultures in the area, particularly Arabic, and very depressing to read of the events that occurred in 1948 when modern Israel was born. You are left feeling that the rift between Israel and the Arab states is a tragedy but almost inevitable given the religious/cultural differences and human nature on both sides. The book also describes, through the stories from each era, how this kind of conflict between different religions and cultures has been happening in the area since prehistoric times and that resolution has often been bloody and violent. Quite thought-provoking.
The book is a little dated now but still a fantastic read. I have read a few other books by Michener and this is by far my favourite.