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.
About T.C. Boyle
T. C. Boyle is the author of thirteen novels, including World’s End, which won the 1987 PEN/Faulkner Award; Drop City, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and the New York Times bestseller The Women. He has also published nine collections of stories and was the recipient of the prestigious PEN/Malmud Award for Excellence in the short story. His stories appear in The New Yorker, GQ, Esquire, McSweeney’s, and Playboy. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, he lives in California.
The 14th novel from Boyle returns to the Channel Islands off the coast of California, a setting which served him so well in his previous novel (When the Killing’s Done, 2011). Some of the conflicts are similar as well—man versus nature, government regulation versus private enterprise—but otherwise this reads more like a novel that is a century or more old, like a long lost work from the American naturalist school of Frank Norris and Theodore Dreiser, both of whom saw mankind caught in mechanistic forces and nature as something other than the Eden of innocence so often romanticized. The novel tenuously connects the stories of two families who move, 50 years apart, to the isolation of the title island, in order to tend to a sheep ranch. For Marantha Waters, the symbolically fraught pilgrimage with her husband and daughter in 1888—on “New Year’s Day, the first day of her new life, and she was on an adventure…bound for San Miguel Island and the virginal air Will insisted would make her well again”—is one of disillusionment and determination. Even the passage of time feels like a loss of innocence: “The days fell away like the skin of a rotten fruit”; “The next day sheared away like the face of a cliff crashing into the ocean and then there was another day and another.” The ravages of the natural world (and their own moral natures) take their toll on the family, who are belatedly succeeded in the 1930s by a similar one, as newlyweds anticipate their move west as “the real life they were going into, the natural life, the life of Thoreau and Daniel Boone, simple and vigorous and pure.” Reinforcing their delusions is national press attention, which made much of their “pioneering, that is, living like the first settlers in a way that must have seemed romantic to people inured to the grid of city streets and trapped in the cycle of getting and wanting and getting all over again.” – Kirkus Reviews
Book World: ‘San Miguel’ by T.C. Boyle
The Washington Post Book Review – September 18, 2012 (Excerpt)
After all the verbal high jinks in the past month from Zadie Smith and Michael Chabon, the clear, transparent storytelling of T.C. Boyle’s new novel sounds positively retro: no 12-page-long sentences, no stream-of-consciousness mingled with menu items and IM chats. Just a well-told tale. “It’s something I’ve never done before,” Boyle told the Wall Street Journal. “A straight historical narrative . . . without irony, without comedy. . . . Just to see if I can do it.”
He can. But that’s not surprising. Theatrical as he appears in those outrageous shirts and jackets, in his fiction Boyle never steals the spotlight from his characters, from what they’re wrestling with. His previous novel, “When the Killing’s Done” (2011) , took place on the Channel Islands off the coast of California and managed to make the complex issue of environmental reclamation tremendously exciting. His new novel, “San Miguel,” is a kind of prequel that again takes place on one of the Channel Islands, but the story’s tone and pace are entirely different. Instead of violently dramatizing a contemporary debate, “San Miguel” is an absorbing work of historical fiction based on the lives of two real families who resided on San Miguel Island in the 19th and 20th centuries. [Read the full article...]
T.C. Boyle’s ‘San Miguel’ Is No Island Paradise
NPR Book Review – September 20, 2012 (Excerpt)
San Miguel is the name of a treeless island off the coast of California where, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, a few nervy ranchers struggled to raise sheep. San Miguel is also the name of T. Coraghessan Boyle’s chilling and beautiful new novel, which is loosely based on the memoirs of those ranchers.
It is a striking departure from Boyle’s past work. In 13 satirical novels, Boyle has skewered all manner of egoists and kooks, ranging from health food gurus (The Road to Wellville) and hippies (Drop City) to Alfred Kinsey (The Inner Circle). He is skewering no one here, and it takes a solid 40 pages for a longtime fan to trust that he’s put away his knives for real. He has. While the prose remains as exuberant and biting as ever, he has stripped away every trace of his trademark irony to stunning effect. [Read the full article...]
Untamed Island - ‘San Miguel,’ by T. Coraghessan Boyle
The New York Times Book Review – October 26, 2012 (Excerpt)
Civilization has always had its malcontents: detractors who despise the rat race and the corruption that inevitably accompanies human enterprise. These idealists long to return to a simpler, presumably purer life. In T. Coraghessan Boyle’s mesmerizing and elegiac 14th novel, “San Miguel,” two utopians from different eras — Will Waters, a veteran of the Civil War, and later, Herbie Lester, a World War I veteran suffering from shell shock — establish their own private idylls on the desolate Channel Islands off the California coast. Both men seek to escape the horrors of their wars, and both, in their egotism and maniacal drive, ignore the desires, needs and safety of the families they bring with them. But the star of the book is the island itself, San Miguel, in all its glorious barrenness, its guano-coated cliffs and its pounding waves that cough up remnants of the frequent shipwrecks around the rocky shore. (A coffin shows up and is converted into a couch, then later is restored to its original purpose.) The inhabitants find the island pummeled by sandstorms and shrouded by fogs, only infrequently giving way to rare days when it is the paradise they sought.
Boyle’s previous novel, “When the Killing’s Done,” was also set on the Channel Islands. Its harrowing shipwreck scene, reminiscent of Stephen Crane’s “Open Boat,” was unrelenting in its man-versus-nature drama. That novel dealt with the environmental devastation wrought by decades of human interference on the islands; “San Miguel” re-examines this history from the perspectives of three women. [Read the full article...]
QUEEN OF MISFORTUNE A Lady Jane Grey Novel by Peter Carroll
A Love Story of Shakespearean Dimension!
Queen Of Misfortune is the fictional story of Lady Jane Grey as told by her beloved tutor, John Aylmer. At the time of her execution a stranger is recorded to have assisted her when, blind folded, she lost her way upon the scaffold. Was it the same strange who was also recorded to have visited her when she was imprisoned in the Tower? Little is known of this unfortunate girl who was beheaded for treason in the 16th Century. She was only 16. She is omitted from the list of monarchs but was actually queen for nine days. Author Peter Carroll, in his novel, follows John Aylmer’s close relationship with Jane as her tutor and later, as she grows up, her lover. [More...]
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
FrogenYozurt.com may generate ad income and accept advertising/ads and links. Paid entries are marked as “Paid Articles.” Entries describing a product (book reviews, etc.) may contain descriptions provided by the manufacturer or other sources (Amazon.Com, etc.).
All entries marked as "Satire" may refer to actual persons or events, however, the content is of a satirical nature based on the writers' personal views and should not be taken seriously. All other entries reflect personal opinions on various topics.
All content on this website has been posted under the impression that they do not infringe any copyrights. However, if this site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner, we believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. Should you suspect a copyright infringement or any other legal issues with posts on this website, please contact the editor through the contact form as indicated on the top navigation bar, and we will remove the post immediately. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.