Caribbean: A Novel


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Then it was the same thing: writing the character for maybe forty, fifty pages, until I ran into a dead end. When last have you read As I Lay Dying? And that became even clearer when I started to almost think like an investigative journalist: these boys with guns they can never afford. Where did the guns come from? And when you follow the trail of the guns you end up in politics. When you end up in politics you end up in diplomacy. The whole idea that Marley was going to finance a third party, I found out on a hill somewhere.


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In a sense, a lot of the really crazy stuff that happens in that book is the most truthful. Marley really did forgive one of his assailants. This kid became a part of his entourage and then vanished. He vanished after Marley died, then cropped up a few years later in East Germany with a bullet in the back of his head. But that will be the sequel. A Brief History is, of course, made up of different characters speaking their stories.

Was the form of this book intentional in that sense — a way to suggest that this is how one must write about Jamaica, about any complex place? I knew this was a novel being carried by voices, but the problem with writing a novel about voices is, sooner or later, you run out of voices. And it really is a fantastic novel. He would know where everything is in relation to everything else, distances.


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All of that I got from reading Duras. A lot of those voices come from me just basically stealing, figuring out the way in which they enter the story. What has that process been like? The obvious thing about writing a TV show is that it really is a collaborative effort. There are around five of us. Each person writes two episodes. Despite knowing the story, you still have to plot everything back out.

There are characters who are in the TV show who are not in the book and vice versa.

December's Reading group: books from the Caribbean

The TV show takes a wilder trajectory. In fact, the entire first season is maybe about the first twenty pages of this book. It just follows different rules. You also have to let go of ego really quickly. If there are five of us writing, and I am Mr. Episode 5 and Episode 10, then a lot of people are writing stuff before me. You also have to let go of how different people perceive your characters, which I actually have no problem with.

I thought I would hate collaborative writing more than I do. I actually quite like that process. What can you say about it? You know, if an Asian popped up in the Shire, nobody would have cared.

Nobody would have cared that there was a Chinese hobbit. I went and read the African epics. I believe that Michener is successful in motivating the reader to read more about the region. The book does not, however, cover the whole Caribbean, but rather focuses on some of the islands of the Caribbean, paying particular attention to Jamaica, Haiti, Barbados, Guadaloupe and Trinidad.

Michener gallantly attempts to strike a balance between the influence and presence of England, Spain and France in the region, even if in the end the feeling is that the former British West Indies are covered in much more detail than the former French and Spanish colonies. Even the ex-spanish colonies of Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico are given very small roles, and the only chapter on Cuba takes place in the s and is loosely centered on the impact Cuban emigration was having on Miami and La Habana. A historical novel is sometimes notable not only for what it includes, but also what it leaves out -Michener says nary a word on Costa Rica, Honduras, Belize or the Cayman Islands.

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It coyly steers clear of US involvements and interventions in the Caribbean; the Spanish-American war does not even merit a mention, neither do William Walker filibustering interventions in the Caribbean and his usurpation of the Nicaraguan presidency , the building of the Panama Canal, the so called Banana Wars culminating in the US military occupations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic or how the Danish Virgin Islands passed into US hands; the US invasion of Grenada is covered in a couple of sentences as does its funding Contras in Nicaragua, and its coverage of Puerto Rico and the Dutch Antilles is minuscule.

As other Goodreads reviewers point out, Michener also invents the inexistent island of All Saints and I join the chorus of voices wondering why on earth Michener felt the need to do this. The economic, social and political importance of sugar is well stressed, except in the last chapter where Michener repeatedly pushes through the mouths of several of his characters what appears to be his favoured but hopelessly naive solution to the economy of the Caribbean -that US pay a few cents a pound over the international price of sugar.

Many of the stories attempt to develop stories that illustrate evolution of race relations in the Caribbean with rather mixed results. Dec 20, Frank Theising rated it it was ok Shelves: fiction-historical. In ''Caribbean,'' Michener follows the same formula used successfully in many of his other novels like Poland or Chesapeake: hopping from place to place, inventing fictional characters who interact with historical figures, and explaining historical events and their context through the lives of those characters.

It worked masterfully in many of his other novels but unfortunately fell short in this novel. The vast cultural mosaic of the region necessitates a constant introduction of new characters that have no relation to one another from chapter to chapter. Instead of a flowing history, we are left with a choppy patchwork of stories awkwardly forced together. Perhaps that in itself sheds some light on the turbulent history of the Caribbean Islands. The novel covers almost years of Caribbean History starting with the native Arawak Indians in the s and ending in when the novel was published.

Its starts with the native Arawak Indians on the island of Dominica who would be overrun by the ferocious and cannibalistic Carib Indians. What I found particularly fascinating was the geo-strategic importance these islands played in European and world affairs. The wealth generated by the sugar plantations made many of these islands more valuable than most of the colonies on the mainland at the time. Likewise, the plantation owners on Jamaica and other British isles were able to acquire seats in Parliament enabling them to punch way above their weight in forcing political decisions of consequence to the entire British Empire.

For instance, many of the onerous restrictions on the flow of trade for the colonies on the American mainland were initiated by MPs whose seats represented the West Indies. Michener does help to explain the unique character of many of the islands. The Haitian revolution is told through the story of fictional general Cesar Vaval.

Communist Cuba is explored through the eyes of Cuban refugees who have made a prosperous new life for themselves in Miami. Michener explores, in excruciating detail, the meaning and influence of Rastafarianism in Jamaica and other islands. He explores the introduction of Indians from India from lower castes into the islands to do many of the menial jobs that former slave refuse to do after slavery is abolished.

While I have a much greater appreciation for the Caribbean, at over pages the book turned into much more of a slog than his other books and I found myself struggling to get through the last third of the book. Thus far, this ranks as my least favorite Michener book. Dec 13, David Earle rated it really liked it. This was also a huge book at pages with teeny-tiny text….

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But I love epics! And I really enjoyed this book! I have to hand it to Michener for the enormous amount of research he did when writing this novel. From there it covers the Maya empire and their demise from greatness. Then enter the white man — Christopher Columbus — and all the other famous explorers, captains, pirates, buccaneers and slave ships that followed over the next several hundred years and chapters in the book.

The constant battles over these islands for colonial occupation by the Spanish, English, French and Dutch where these islands would fall into the hands of one or the other, some for short periods of time, others longer lasting, was forever ongoing. He tells in great depth the valuable economic trade commodity of sugar that would later replace that of the Spanish galleons laden with silver and gold that was brought over from Peru and traversed by mule train from Panama City to Porto Bello on the Gulf side.

The great sugar plantations and the brutality by which the slaves labored under for four hundred years is described in horrific detail. In fact, between the sickening treatment of slaves and prisoners of sparing countries, and the indigenous Indians and citizens of the cities and towns overthrown in war and pirate raids, this is what I came away with most from the book…..

John and the powerful fortress city of Cartagena — so it was of some surprise and dismay that he found a need to invent a fictional island called All Saints. Although he fills his book with fictional characters that he intermingles with non-fictional historic characters that I can fully understand and appreciate for the telling of the many stories throughout the book, I cannot understand why with so many multifaceted islands and countries to choose from in the Caribbean, he would come up with a fictional island for one full chapter that is mentioned again and again afterward until the end.

Oct 21, Melissa rated it really liked it. Another epic saga from Michener crossed off my list!

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I loved this one a little bit less than the others I've read, but enjoyed it all the same. I appreciated the in-depth focus on one island per chapter, some of them repeated as the book progressed towards modern times. There's so much about Caribbean history that I don't know! By focusing on the extremely different backgrounds of the different countries, it helped bring them into sharper relief but also Another epic saga from Michener crossed off my list! By focusing on the extremely different backgrounds of the different countries, it helped bring them into sharper relief but also highlighted just how strongly their fates were tied to world events, especially in Europe and eventually, America.

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This book took me forever to read, in part because of lack of time but also because there were times when the writing felt really forced and cliched especially as it got closer to modern day and because I began to get annoyed that there were no female characters that were allowed to exist on their own without being tied to a romantic partner. Even and especially the final chapter! I feel like this also probably happened a lot in his other books but it was less obvious, and there was at least one strong female character in each of the other books I've read by him.

Overall, a fascinating look at world history as played out in the Caribbean. I don't think I remembered much of it, but it at least helped me realize just how much I don't know--which is also important! Dec 06, David rated it liked it.

Caribbean: A Novel Caribbean: A Novel
Caribbean: A Novel Caribbean: A Novel
Caribbean: A Novel Caribbean: A Novel
Caribbean: A Novel Caribbean: A Novel
Caribbean: A Novel Caribbean: A Novel

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