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The Source by James A. Michener
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The Source (1965)

by James A. Michener

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Artifacts found at an archaeological site in Israel provide the foundations for a series of fictional snapshots into the region's history. The time-span covered is ambitious in the usual Michener fashion, from Neolithic times up into the 1960s. The focus is mostly on the Jewish peoples, but some time is given to early pre-Judaic religions, pagan Romans, Christianity, the Crusaders, and Islam.

Michener is a master at making the grand sweep of human history accessible, but sometimes in order to do this he simplifies things somewhat. It seems especially noticeable in this book. Some of the characters lack depth. The female characters are particularly one-note. But then again, he has to cover a lot of territory, so...

The human drama seemed somewhat repetitive from section to section, but the historical details were quite fun. I especially liked the story of building the underground tunnel to secure the town's water source. It was obviously based on Hezekiah's tunnel in Jerusalem, an amazing engineering feat given the primitive technology at the time. Other portions borrow from Josephus's writings to provide further authenticity. The history stuff is good. The actual fiction is just okay. ( )
  saturnloft | Aug 25, 2013 |
00002135
  cavlibrary | Apr 19, 2013 |
Good job by the author in trying to collect rabbinic thought and philosophy and tie and contrast that to other religions and gods. Lots of new understanding for me. The first half of the book is very, very slow, and the book is long. ( )
  herbcat | Oct 23, 2012 |
Follows an archeological dig in the Holy Land with short, interconnected stories for each level/time period discovered tracing the history of Judaism and the introduction of Christianity and Islam into the area. I suppose I will never understand religion for this work only served to intensify all its negative attributes without balancing it with anything positive (which I'm inclined to believe means there is little to no positive influence to be had). I think I may give Michener another try, but on a different topic. ( )
  dandelionroots | Aug 13, 2012 |
I opted to read this novel because the premise sounded like one I would enjoy. I had read two previous novels by Michener. Centennial was one of my favorite books of all times. Conversely, I so intensely hated The Drifters that in protest I refused to read the last 20 pages. I figured The Source couldn’t be any worse than The Drifters and was maybe as good as Centennial. In reality, my enjoyment fell somewhere between the two.

For me, parts of the book dragged – a lot! No thousand page novel can afford to drag much. Thankfully I found most parts sufficiently readable to keep pressing forward.
The story was less cohesive than the traditional saga I had anticipated. I’m not criticizing it for this reason; simply stating that the story was not what I expected. I was frequently unable to differentiate fact from fiction. I found myself wondering from time to time whether a passage was historically accurate or drawn from Michener’s rich imagination.

Nevertheless, the story has evoked unexpected reflection in me. While reading the novel I found myself listening more intently to the Old Testament readings in church. Michener did an outstanding job of conveying insight into what being a Jew represents. No matter how religious or secular an individual Jew is, he or she inherits the collective history of a singular people. For some reason, I find that both ennobling and humbling. I gained an awareness of the contention between the political state of Israel and the spiritual responsibilities of Judaism. Is an Israeli a patriot first, or a Jew first?

I was appalled and embarrassed by the Catholic Church’s oppression of the Jews during the Middle Ages. (I wanted that part to be fiction knowing full well it was spot on accurate.) As a Christian I bear a personal sense of shame, just as I do a white person towards slavery, or would-be settler towards Native Americans.

While my feelings towards it are ambivalent, the book was worth the time.
  refice | Oct 28, 2011 |
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On Tuesday the freighter steamed through the Straits of Gibraltar and for five days plowed eastward through the Mediterranean, past islands and peninsulas rich in history, so that on Saturday night the steward advised Dr. Cullinane, "If you wish an early sight of the Holy Land you must be up at dawn."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375760385, Paperback)

In his signature style of grand storytelling, James Michener sweeps us back through time to the Holy Land, thousands of years ago. By exploring the lives and discoveries of modern archaeologists excavating the site of Tell Makor, Michener vividly re-creates life in and around an ancient city during critical periods of its existence, and traces the profound history of the Jews, including that of the early Hebrews and their persecution, the impact of Christianity on the Jewish world, the Crusades, and the Spanish Inquisition. Michener weaves his epic tale of love, strength, and faith until at last he arrives at the founding of Israel and the modern conflict in the Middle East. The Source is not only a compelling history of the Holy Land and its people but a richly written saga that encompasses the development of Western civilization and the great religious and cultural ideas that have shaped our world.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:19:36 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Exploring the lives and discoveries of modern archaeologists excavating the site of Tell Makor, Michener re-creates life in & around an ancient city during critical periods of its existence & traces the history of the Jews including the life of the early Hebrews, their persecution & the Spanish Inquisition.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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