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Caravans: A Novel of Afghanistan Paperback – September 9, 2003

4.5 out of 5 stars 1,096 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Brilliant . . . an extraordinary novel . . . The old nomadic trails across the mountains spring into existence.”The New York Times
 
“Romantic and adventurous . . . [Michener] has a wonderful empathy for the wild and free and an understanding of the reasons behind the kind of cruelty that goes with it.”Newsday
 
“Michener has done for Afghanistan what . . . his first [book] did for the South Pacific.”The New York Herald Tribune

From the Inside Flap

In this romantic adventure of wild Afghanistan, master storyteller James Michener mixes the allure of the past with the dangers of today. After an impetuous American girl, Ellen Jasper, marries a young Afghan engineer, her parents hear no word from her. Although she wants freedom to do as she wishes, not even she is sure what that means. In the meantime, she is as good as lost in that wild land, perhaps forever....
"An extraordinary novel....Brilliant."
THE NEW YORK TIMES

"From the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperback; Reprint edition (September 9, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812969820
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812969825
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,096 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,032 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By L. Feld on June 20, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
When I was in my early teens, back in the days of disco, fat ties, oil crises, and gaudy leisure suits (aka, the 1970s), I remember looking through my parents' book collection for the book with the most pages. At the time, I thought that the length of a book somehow corresponded to its difficulty level, and that if I could read a 1,000+ page book, then I must be REALLY smart and also grown up! Anyway, one of the first books I decided to read, based on these sophisticated criteria, was "The Source," by James Michener. Surprisingly, I found out that the book was actually easy to read, fascinating, and highly entertaining, and I whizzed right through it (boy, did I think I was smart afte that)! I remember being completely engrossed as the centuries flew past, as conquering armies marched, as cities rose and fell, as blood flowed through the streets of Jerusalem, and as the Jews wandered through the Middle East and Europe. I also remember thinking that the Middle East had an incredible history that I needed to learn a lot more about.
Well, almost 30 years later, with a Masters Degree in Middle East Studies, with a couple of trips to the region under my belt, and with a job dealing with the Middle East, I can blame it all, at least in part, on reading "The Source" at age 12 or 13. Seriously, though, I do believe that the seed of my life-long fascination with history, international relations, politics, and the Middle East was planted when I read "The Source" as a young teenager. Actually, come to think of it, another Michener book -- Centennial -- got me fascinated in the history of the West and the American Indian, while several others made me want to learn more about South Africa, Hawaii, the South Pacific, the Chesapeake region, and even outer space. So, definitely read James Michener, but be warned: you could become addicted to a lifetime of learning, travel, and adventure.
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This sweeping epic traces the fictitious history of Makor, a city in Israel, from prehistory to modern times. Starting in the 1960s, an archeological dig turns up artifacts in an ancient mound composed of the remains of successive settlements in Makor. Then, starting with the deepest, oldest artifact and moving forward in time, in successive chapters Michener chronologically describes the inhabitants (who are often descendants of characters in earlier chapters) and events in and around the city over thousands of years. In this way, he tells the fascinating story of the Jews and other local inhabitants, of Judaism and its role in the creation of Christianity and Islam, and of the establishment of the modern state of Israel.
This is the first book I have read by Michener, my interest having been piqued when a friend responded to my praise of Edward Rutherfurd's "London" by describing Rutherfurd as "a poor man's Michener". My friend's point was that Rutherfurd borrowed Michener's often-used story structure for historical fiction, a structure perhaps best exemplified by "The Source". As much as I enjoyed "London", it pales in comparison to "The Source", one of the classics of the genre. I recommend it without reservation.
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Don't be fooled by the "Harlequin Romance"-looking cover art. Caravans is a ripping good adventure/travelogue/history lesson, with some romance thrown in for good measure.
The story is simple: An American girl who married an Afghani man is missing in Afghanistan. Her family is frantic, and a military man stationed in Afghanistan in 1946 is assigned to find out what happened to her. The story veers into some unexpected territory, and Michener delivers a TON of Historical perspective on the people and places of Afghanistan without ever making you feel like you're back in History class. (This is a VERY illuminating book to read after September 11th...)
The characters are interesting, and the book just zooms along: I finished it in no time flat. My only complaint is the map in the beginning of the book: It's printed so dark that it's totally useless.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Michener, James A., Caravans (Ballantine Books, United States, 1963). 438. 1 map. 1 Note to Reader. 0-449-21380-3.
Caravans is the story of an American woman, Ellen Jaspar, lost in Afghanistan after marrying an Afghan engineer. The novel is told through the cooperation of American officials and Afghani leaders to find the missing woman at the pressure of a U.S. Senator. Michener touches upon various aspects of Afghanistan, including women's rights, religious fanaticism, foreign perceptions, and the character of the Afghani people.
James A. Michener found his inspiration for the novel in his personal experiences and travels through Afghanistan. He in fact met many European women who struggled for freedom from the confines of their marriage and Afghanistan. Michener is extremely well-traveled in the region, and furthermore has much diplomatic expertise lending to credible portrayals of Afghani leaders and people in the novel. Hence, his portrayal of the many facets of Afghani culture and politics are credible and well-researched.
The motive of Michener in writing this novel seems unclear at times, as it's adventure-style narrative can obscure the reader's vision of it as more than just a story. Yet, there is some hint of the author's desire to enlighten the world on the deeper character of Afghanistan. Michener strives to shed light on such a perplexing people and culture, that more often than not are judged solely by the negative qualities that appear on the surface (i.e. fanatical mullahs and repressed women). And, by incorporating both Afghani and foreign perceptions of Afghani people and culture continuously throughout the novel, Michener achieves this goal.
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