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San Miguel by T.C. Boyle

San Miguel (original 2012; edition 2012)

by T.C. Boyle

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3102135,978 (3.78)20
Title:San Miguel
Authors:T.C. Boyle
Info:Viking Adult (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 384 pages
Collections:Your library, US fiction/literature
Tags:US fiction/literature, tbr

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San Miguel by T. C. Boyle (2012)


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Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
T.C. Boyle tells us the story of a family on the San Miguel Island. The desolate island makes for a backdrop for the trials and tribulations of family. Boyle takes us on a vivid join of hard living and stubborn people in a novel of love and hate.

I’ve never actually read a T.C. Boyle novel before but I’ve heard he is a great storyteller, so I was excited to read this novel. This is a book of major family drama, I get the feeling that being stuck on a desolate island off the coast of California isn’t really helping the situation at all. The feeling of isolation is almost like having a cabin fever effect at times and this makes for highly emotional situations.

San Miguel follows the point of views of two different characters, giving us an insight of their inner thoughts and desires. Inspired by historical records, Boyle blends the facts with his own take of the story to bring us a character driven novel of the trials of this family. While at times I found this a highly emotional and somewhat endearing novel, I found myself thinking about novels like Shipping News and remembering just how that was a similar type of novel, only better. It is hard to immerse myself in a novel when I’m too busy comparing it to better novels and I truly think if I was in the right state of mind, this book would have been more enjoyable (perhaps enough to warrant 4 stars).

The characters within this novel are just wonderful; Boyle really knows how to write personalities, desires and inner thoughts, giving them real depth. Marantha and Elizabeth are great protagonists and the isolated location was the perfect backdrop for this story. But I never connected fully with the story, and I think it left too many questions unanswered.

T.C. Boyle is a great storyteller; I will be checking out some more of his work in the future, I’m hoping I can connect with them more than I did with San Miguel. It really didn’t help my enjoyment of this book. So I hope people who decide to give this novel a go, find themselves enjoying the characters and the trials that come there way.

This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2012/12/18/book-review-san-miguel/ ( )
  knowledge_lost | Apr 27, 2015 |
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 loved 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? ( )
  JMlibrarian | Mar 3, 2015 |
I really enjoyed the writing/imagery/characters....but wanted a bit more to the story (depth). ( )
  Julia.Reeb | Jul 23, 2014 |
didnt finish. writing not interesting enough ( )
  eileenmary | Apr 2, 2014 |
It’s been a while since the last time I read anything by Boyle. There was a period when I read a lot of him, but then I got caught up with new authors and well, you know how it goes. San Miguel had been on my wishlist for while so I just went for it and despite the mixed reviews it’s received, I enjoyed my time with it. I think I’ve said this before of Boyle, that he works better when he doesn’t have to drive a plot. When he can just tell a tale of what happens next with some really interesting characters, living in interesting places, doing interesting things. Even routine things he can make interesting and that’s what he does here. It reminded me strongly of Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose because of the setting and spirits of the women he wrote about. Some wanted to be where they were and pursuing their hard-scrabble lives on San Miguel. One didn’t and it was the combination of those separate personalities that reminded me of Susan Ward and her duality.

Some reviews comment that the stories are too loosely connected, but I found it wasn’t necessary for me to enjoy them and especially liked when Jimmy started up a story about Edith and her time on the island. It didn’t feel forced since you had to take the Jimmy in Elise’s story as the same one in Edith and Marantha’s. Plus it finished her tale, which had ended so abruptly. A few other characters pop up as well, to thread the stories, but each one focuses on the inhabitants and even more closely on the women. Yes, Captain Waters is a force on the island, and Herbie just skewers you from an emotional perspective, but really these are stories of women and their respective states of convalescence, confinement and contentment. Well done and well told. ( )
  Bookmarque | Feb 21, 2014 |
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About suffering they were never wrong, The Old Masters; how well they understood Its human position: how it takes place While someone is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along. --W. H. Auden, "Musee des Beaux Arts"
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670026247, Hardcover)

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Women, a historical novel about three women’s lives on a California island

On a tiny, desolate, windswept island off the coast of Southern California, two families, one in the 1880s and one in the 1930s, come to start new lives and pursue dreams of self-reliance and freedom. Their extraordinary stories, full of struggle and hope, are the subject of T. C. Boyle’s haunting new novel.

Thirty-eight-year-old Marantha Waters arrives on San Miguel on New Year’s Day 1888 to restore her failing health.  Joined by her husband, a stubborn, driven Civil War veteran who will take over the operation of the sheep ranch on the island, Marantha strives  to persevere in the face of the hardships, some anticipated and some not, of living in such brutal isolation. Two years later their adopted teenage daughter, Edith, an aspiring actress, will exploit every opportunity to escape the captivity her father has imposed on her.  Time closes in on them all and as the new century approaches, the ranch stands untenanted. And then in March 1930, Elise Lester, a librarian from New York City, settles on San Miguel with her husband, Herbie, a World War I veteran full of manic energy.  As the years go on they find a measure of fulfillment and serenity; Elise gives birth to two daughters, and the family even achieves a celebrity of sorts. But will the peace and beauty of the island see them through the impending war as it had seen them through the Depression?

Rendered in Boyle’s accomplished, assured voice, with great period detail and utterly memorable characters, this is a moving and dramatic work from one of America’s most talented and inventive storytellers.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:16 -0400)

The lives of three women on turn-of-the-20th-century San Miguel are shaped by ambition and circumstance, including the wife of a Civil War veteran who hopes to recover her health, her rebellious aspiring actress daughter and a librarian who wonders if the island's peace will endure in the face of looming war.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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