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Chesapeake: A Novel Paperback – September 9, 2003
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“Another of James Michener’s great mines of narrative, character and lore.”—The Wall Street Journal
“[A] marvelous panorama of history seen in the lives of symbolic people of the ages . . . an emotionally and intellectually appealing book.”—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Michener’s most ambitious work of fiction in theme and scope.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Magnificently written . . . one of those rare novels that are enthusiastically passed from friend to friend.”—Associated Press
From the Inside Flap
"Michener's most ambitious work of fiction in theme and scope."
THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER
Once again James A. Michener brings history to life with this 400-year saga of America's great bay and its Eastern Shore. Following Edmund Steed and his remarkable family, who parallel the settling and forming of the nation, CHESAPEAKE sweeps readers from the unspoiled world of the Native Americans to the voyages of Captain John Smith, the Revolutionary War, and right up to modern times.
"From the Paperback edition.
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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.
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.
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.
Around 400 years are covered in Chesapeake, with the fictional stories / chapters arranged chronologically and featuring several distinct themes:
1) American Indian life in the area and the arrival of European settlers
2) Rapid spread of American agriculture and resulting conflicts with Indians
3) Plantation lifestyle and the practice of slavery
4) The slavery debate and Civil War
6) The Civil Rights movements
Themes #3 and #4 above are written the best in my opinion. Superb! Violent adventure on the high seas is followed by phenomenal accounts of the lives of slaves and the development of the Underground Railroad.