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San Miguel: A Novel Kindle Edition

143 customer reviews

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Length: 385 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews


An involving historical read and yet another illustration of this author's astonishing range. There seems to be no subject or genre that Boyle won't tackle with brio -- Lionel Shriver Guardian, Books of the Year Boyle tells an extraordinary story of human weakness and survival, with high intelligence and a terrific eye for detail -- Kate Saunders The Times Though I generally shy from flap-copy hyperbole of this sort, T. C. Boyle is by far and away one of the most inventive, adventurous and accomplished fiction writers in the US today ... Most of all, he is a mesmerising storyteller, which is magnificently on display in his latest, San Miguel ... a dense, lushly detailed novel ... marking the exceptionally fine lines in San Miguel would have entailed underscoring the entire text ... this isn't a review, really. It's a love letter -- Lionel Shriver Financial Times A history novel of almost heroic restraint, its prose remains resolutely unflashy, and its tone is sympathetic to the point of genuine warmth ... a touching, even gripping allegory of the doomed nature of human striving -- James Walton Spectator A bareback ride into the abyss -- Tom Cox Observer His evocations of landscape are vivid and he can dream up a cast of characters -- Belinda McKeon Guardian [A] fine new novel ... He is [...] masterful at presenting this enclosed world, and he examines the debilitating effects of isolation on men and women -- Philip Womack Daily Telegraph It's extraordinarily direct, sympathetic and pretty, with Boyle's characteristic aliveness to the past and its telling little details -- Todd McEwen Glasgow Sunday Herald Mesmerising and elegiac ... Boyle skilfully captures that tension-filled quietude in the pared-down, mundane details of cleaning, cooking, caring for livestock and enduring the tedium of unchanging days Scotsman Permeated with an elegiac tone ... Atmospherically it is resonant of The Piano, Jane Campion's passionate novel of pioneering tenacity ... A powerful meditation on the skirmish between character and circumstance in these marginal lives in America's history Independent

About the Author

T. C. Boyle's novels include World's End, winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, The Tortilla Curtain, the New York Times bestseller, The Women and, most recently, When the Killing's Done. His work has been translated into twenty-five languages and he is a member of the Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in California.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1445 KB
  • Print Length: 385 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0147509750
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (September 18, 2012)
  • Publication Date: September 18, 2012
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007V65Q64
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #177,571 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

T. C. Boyle is the author of eleven novels, including World's End (winner of the PEN/FaulknerAward), Drop City (a New York Times bestseller and finalist for the National Book Award), and The Inner Circle. His most recent story collections are Tooth and Claw and The Human Fly and Other Stories.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

83 of 91 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The most distant of the Channel Islands from the coast of California is rain-soaked, wind-swept, and populated by sheep. In San Miguel, T. Coraghessan Boyle tells the stories of three women who made the island their home. While fans of character-driven historical fiction featuring strong women should be pleased with San Miguel, readers who gravitate to plot-driven fiction will probably find this novel less satisfying than some of Boyle's earlier, more captivating work.

Part one tells Marantha's story. It is a masterful portrayal of a woman struggling to control the dark side of her personality, to adapt gracefully to miserable circumstances while coping with failing health. In the late nineteenth century, Marantha joins her second husband (Will Waters) and adopted daughter (Edith) on San Miguel where, with Marantha's money, Will has purchased a half interest in a sheep farm. Marantha hopes to recuperate from consumption but soon realizes that a rainy, windy island is the wrong setting in which to salvage her health ... or, for that matter, her marriage. To paraphrase The Clash: Will she stay or will she go?

With Marantha, Boyle is at his best, creating a carefully nuanced character and describing her life in powerful terms. Marantha knows she has become "a crabbed miserable thing who said no to everything, to every pleasure and delight no matter how small or meaningless," but that is not the person she wants to be. As only a gifted writer can do, Boyle generates sympathy and understanding for a character whose thoughts and behavior are often spiteful.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Jill Minor on September 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Historical fiction is rarely this flawless, but many T. C. Boyle fans may find San Miguel a jarring departure from Boyle's usual rock-and-roll black humor. I've enjoyed the dark and wicked wit of Boyle's works, but everything I love best about Boyle is here. A chilling mastery of narrative distance, the omnipresent battle with nature red in tooth and claw, the harsh death of the Utopian dream, and characterization so all-consuming that I felt I had to tear myself loose from each central female character (Maranatha, Edith, and Elise) in turn.

I've often wondered what fictional magic would occur if Boyle expanded his inimitable short stories into novellas, giving the rich characterization a chance to really take hold. This novel is really a triptych of fully realized novellas, all sharing the same setting and one minor character. The reader faces the Boylean dilemma yet again. With everything rigged against us, including nature itself and our own human aspirations and limitations, how do people survive and achieve the good life? If we had reached the good life, would we even realize it?
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By raisa on September 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is historical fiction about life on San Miguel, a wild and remote island off the coast of Santa Barbara. San Miguel is barren and treeless, wracked by wind and sea, barely fertile enough to support the sheep that overrun it. Whether it can also support a family - and at what cost - is the heart of the story. The book starts in 1888 when Marantha arrives with her husband Will, their stepdaughter Edith and their maid. Marantha is ill with consumption, and the "fresh island air" is supposed to be healing. She is dismayed to discover conditions far worse (and challenges far greater) than she is prepared to confront.

Marantha is a difficult character to like. At times her complaints are justified (such as when she awakes, spasmodic with tuberculosis, in a bed soaked with cold rain from the leaking roof). But often she is as tiresome as she is tired: she knows she should "show a brave face," but does she even try to cope with mismatched china and the monotonous society of their two ranch hands? On one hand, she is sympathetic because of her difficulties (she cannot climb the island's hills and cliffs, she can't voice her frustrations without falling into a spasm of choking coughs). On the other hand, it's a story of desperation - if life on San Miguel refuses to nurture her, can she only be bitter in return?

In Part 2, Marantha's story recedes and the book follows her daughter Edith. On San Miguel during her teen years, Edith is untamed but craves society. This story has less depth, and might be best read as a mid-novel coda to Marantha's decline. Edith is vivacious where her mother was weak, petulant where her mother silently shrieked. But, even with strength and a voice that Marantha never found, Edith may not have much more to say.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Bob Nolin on October 31, 2012
Format: Hardcover
If I had read this book without knowing who wrote it, probably my last guess would've been T.C. Boyle. I re-read "Wellville" recently, and was again struck by how the male characters are treated as weak buffoons. This is the fourth book of his I've read, and it's the first real historical novel of the four. The others (World's End, East is East, Wellville) all seem to be about showing off how clever the author is and how stupid people can be--and isn't it fun to watch them slip and fall? Ha ha ha.

In "San Miguel," the men are once again making foolish plans and dragging their families along for the ride, but this time the author shows empathy for his characters. This is a book about the American Dream of a place of one's own, and how that dream can become a fatal delusion. Like the sodbusters before them, scratching out a living from the plains as the country grew westward, these two families take a chance on their dream. But this time out, Boyle is not up in his ivory tower laughing at the fools down below. Instead, he presents their story as clearly and truthfully as he can, leaving the reading to pass judgement (or not) and to share in their sorrows and joys.

This is a difficult book to read, due to the difficult lives of the people who tried to make a life out on the edge of the old frontier. But I'm glad I stuck with it. I look forward to Boyle's next work. I hope he continues in this new vein, writing historical fiction honestly, and with empathy.
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