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on March 2, 2017
Once again, from the pen of best-seller novelist James Michener, an all-embracing and comprehensive historical drama...this time the Chesapeake Bay area as the backdrop...from the late 1500’s to the mid-1970’s.

In typical Michener fashion of circa a thousand pages, every chapter is wonderfully portrayed with colorful characters and their descendants evolving for four hundred years. From the early days of Indian chieftain Pentaquod up through and including the fictional families of Steeds, Paxmores, Turlocks, Caters and countless others, we delve into generations of lineage and what becomes of the land, customs and personalities over time.

The chapters on slave ships and the ensuing outcomes of this horrific practice in history are extremely well represented, shocking and heart-wrenching.

Michener was without a doubt a brilliant, gifted and exceptional storyteller in his portrayal of particular places throughout the ages.
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on May 10, 2014
I always like to know the history of places to which I go, and I like to research in advance of my trips. However, this time I only got a few hours notice. But in the B and B by the shore, I saw a book which mentioned Indians and oysters, so I bought this Michener.
As always, he never disappoints. He treats all his characters with equal respect, whether they be dignified well born, disappointed-in-love Indian princesses, or a small short John Smith whose self-made legend is much taller and more dashing.
The families and the stories are well interwoven intergenerationally, and the love affairs are flaming, the pirates formidable.
One of the most memorable scenes is shooting the ducks, with a mini-cannon.
Only the Quaker families appear somewhat similar to each other and rather pale.
But then they are Quakers, whom James Michener knew well, as he was an orphan adopted by a Mrs. Michener, a Quaker.
I often think James Michener is a shining American example of someone who made something of himself, overcoming not the best childhood circumstance.
That he could write so much, about so many different cultures and countries is a testament to his open-mindedness.
Few people could get close enough to hear these stories, let alone write them down.
And he used his money well, endowing the Michener Center and Michener Fellowships in Creative Writing at the Univ. of Austin.
You can't go wrong with James Michener. Buy it, read it, open up your world.
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on July 25, 2016
I bought this book for my granddaughter. I have a first edition that I have just started to read for the 4th time. When I was a kid of about 12 I went camping on the Eastern Shore across from Turkey Point. At that time I knew I was going to return to boat in this area when I was older. Fast forward my wife and I had a boat on the Eastern Shore for almost 30 years. I love this area and Michener captures the feel of Chesapeake perfectly. In that time I became friends with 6/8 generation locals, waterman,including " Mr. Johnny " who at 96 years old was the oldest working waterman on the bay. I've been on all the rivers mentioned in the book and also in all the towns he writes about. The one experience I would like to share is on one warm early October day my wife and I took a dinghy ride on a creek that held thousands upon thousands of Canadian geese. Real slow we worked our way through this congestion of Honkers. They slowly moved out of the way and they refilled the spot after we went by. I do not know what spooked them but all at once they lifted from the water at the same time. The noise was unbelievable and this sky was blacked out. We felt this is what it must of been like a few hundred years ago.
Michener brings these things and many, many, more alive for you the reader. Probably my all-time favorite book and I'm sure you will enjoy it as much as I have. One more note I have to add is our last and final boat a 40 footer we had for 12 years was named "Pentaquod" after the opening character of the book. I miss the boat and the Chesapeake and that's why I'm rereading the novel it brings me back to the Bay that I love.
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on March 2, 2014
This is not my first time reading "Chesapeake," nor my second or third. I love this book, and like all books I love I go back to it as time goes by as if revisiting an old friend. Yes, its a tome. You will not finish this book overnight. But that's part of its delight. You'll travel the decades following the lives of fictitious families whose characters have been brought to life in delightful detail. You'll learn what struggling to survive during the early days of a colony along the Choptank River in Maryland surely were like. Topics such as religious tolerance and slavery are mixed with lust and love. You'll even view the world from the perspective of geese! Its sounds silly when separated from the context of the book, but dive in and read to see how the tale of Onk-or makes perfect sense. As you travel through time, see if you don't do as I do and reflect on how characters decisions during the latter decades of the book match with my your own life experiences. I've read and enjoyed many Michener books, and I'm a native Marylander, so perhaps these truths also color my view of this book. But I do believe that if you like historical fiction, this book is a must-read.
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on March 19, 2014
James Michener always did his homework before writing a book. He weaves fact and fiction, while being as historically accurate as possible, creating beautiful stories with words that make you feel like you've lived the history. Starting with the natives who occupied the Chesapeake area, he moves through the generations of peoples who occupied the area to the present day (1980s). An added advantage, he explains in each book which characters, events, and places are real and which are fiction. If you're going to visit there, read it before you go. It will enrich your experience. If you're not going there, read it anyway. You'll feel like you've been there!
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on July 15, 2011
Highly recommended. I am new to Michner and a convert after this novel. Others talk about the history, the research, the approach formula, etc. I will say that they are all correct on these counts.

But beyond that I would share that I found this work quite engaging and enjoyable as well as meaningfully informative and intelligent. It is a read that is very much worth the time. I consider myself a fairly serious reader and reading is important to me. Michner has really impressed me with scope, the content, the believable well developed characters, and the clear writing. What is more, he provides a graspable unifying thread throughout that knits together the vast content coverage, time span, and character movement. I particularly enjoyed the aspects that explored how geography very much defines destiny.

Treat yourself. This is an excellent novel. You cannot go wrong. It will be money and time very well spent indeed.
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on September 4, 2015
Its been years since I read Michener and I'd forgotten what a splendid author this man was. His work will certainly continue to educate and enlighten those of us who wish to continue to learn about this earth. We plan a trip to this area in the fall, and I found the book to really help my understanding of the people, the area, the Bay, and so many other things that I learned in this very pleasant manner. I enjoyed the excerpt on Hawaii at the end of the book, and perhaps will revisit that book again. His description of how Hawaii came to be was fascinating, and helps with other areas like Baja California and recent volcanic events. Loved it.
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on December 16, 2015
Carries the highest recommendation for anyone who lives or lived in Maryland (or really the whole Chesapeake Bay watershed) and a high recommendation for other readers.

It's historical fiction and it's long, so if you don't like historical fiction or can't hack long books, don't read it and don't post a two-star review. (And seriously don't post a one-star review, of which there are 0 out of 330 as I write this.) But lengthy as it is, 'Chesapeake' doesn't plod. Instead, Michener uses the pages to tell in rich and nuanced detail the stories of the Steeds, Paxmores, Turlocks, Caters, Cavenys and other families, the Native Americans who preceded them and -- above all -- the Eastern Shore, the Bay and its rivers themselves. This is a book about the beginnings of the United States, politics, local spats, the Civil War, slavery and race relations, wives and husbands, ships and boats and civilization's relationship to the land, without being too much about any one of those.

Michener's weaving of real historical figures and happenings into the imagined narrative is seamless and helps anchor the casual reader. The notes on relating to watercraft and wildlife are detailed but not to the point of being burdensome.

He uses this novel to convey some universal insights and grounded in a certain (his own, perhaps) view, and the subtle assertions of what's right and wrong might turn some off. I appreciated it.
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on August 31, 2015
You have to be a fan of well formed characters within their own time frame to enjoy reading Michener. There is plenty of drama, romance and historical fact mixed with fiction to keep an aficionado satisfied with a tome such as this. It isn't a light work. It also isn't an action packed quick read. Michener was very detailed and meticulous in his descriptions. It's obvious he loved learning himself, for he weaves together ( in all his books) lives of such diverse people. I happen to love his writing (although I like to read them less often than the quicker reads) and don't think I'll tire of his elaborate portraits.
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on April 13, 2009
James A. Michener's ability to whisk readers off to the places he describes nearly always creates a burning desire to actually go there. I can't recall one of his novels that hasn't made me want to jump in my car, rush to the airport, or stow away on a tramp steamer in order to explore the place for myself. The historically-true backstories of this master storyteller and wordsmith are compelling, even after he revises them with fictional events and imaginary characters.

That same appeal exists to the readers of CHESAPEAKE, and is not diluted by the local nature of the subject. Michener makes this region of America every bit as exotic, using both time and place, as the far-off lands of South Africa, the Middle East, and the islands of the South Pacific.

Having said that, I was somewhat disappointed with the quality of the Kindle edition. I'm trying to keep a set of Michener's novels as eBooks as well as hardcovers and, while he does a great job of writing period pieces, Ballantine Books deos a pretty lousy job of placing periods. In fact, most of them seem to be missing, along with many of the second spaces between sentences.

Now, this might seem like a small thing, but when reading an author like James A. Michener it's easy to get into a rhythm which makes putting the book down difficult. That tempo is destroyed when the reader must to stop to figure out where one sentence ends and the next begins.

Since these reviews encompass all editions, I assume the ratings to be for content rather than presentation, so Michener's writing must get five stars. The publication of the Kindle eBook edition, though, deserves less.
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