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3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  4,394 Ratings  ·  340 Reviews
In this romantic adventure of wild Afghanistan, master storyteller James Michener mixes the allure of the past with the dangers of today. After an impetuous American girl, Ellen Jasper, marries a young Afghan engineer, her parents hear no word from her. Although she wants freedom to do as she wishes, not even she is sure what that means. In the meantime, she is as good as ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 9th 2003 by Dial Press Trade Paperback (first published 1963)
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Jun 09, 2010 Jeanette "Astute Crabbist" rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jeanette by: Julie
James Michener was such an amazing man. Intrepid adventurer, brilliant scholar, prolific author. We shan't see the likes of him again, more's the pity. He traveled extensively in Afghanistan prior to writing this novel. I don't envy him the physical discomfort that must have entailed, but I loved the authenticity it brought to the story.

This book is only about 340 pages---a mere novella by Michener standards. It takes place in 1946. Mark Miller is sent on a diplomatic mission to find Ellen Jasp
Apr 17, 2011 Jenna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is a great book and gives you a feel for Afghanistan. It was written in the 60s about the 40s. And if you replace Taliban for Mullahs and deemphasize the Russian's it could have been written today. Afghanistan truly is a unique place and the book captures that well. For example, early in the book it talks about how the German's came into Afghanistan and built all of these amazing bridges but after a season or two they were destroyed. But the simple Afghan bridges lasted years and years. A lon ...more
Nov 01, 2008 Ron rated it really liked it
Despite--perhaps because of--its age, Michner's view of the then-current affairs and potential futures for Afghanistan make fascinating reading now. Forty-five years ago he recognized the potential of fundamentalist Moslem control of the land, but he voted for the secularists. He was wrong, but it didn't have to be that way.

(I never saw the motion picture based on Michner's book and encourage a reader to seek the novel rather than the movie.)

For a modern alternative ending to Afghanistan's lates
Dec 21, 2007 Brendan rated it it was amazing
At just 336 pages, Caravans is a tight, talky, and wonderfully insightful piece of work set entirely in Afghanistan. The novel centers on Mark Miller, a young American diplomat stationed in 1946 Kabul, who is charged to find Ellen, a woman who married an American-educated Afghan named Nazrullah and then disappeared. He eventually finds her among a group of nomads. Miller’s traveling companion, meanwhile, is Dr. Otto Stiglitz, a Nazi war criminal.

More than forty years after the publication of Car
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
I bought this book after loving Michener's Hawaii, hoping for a similarly wonderful reading experience. I was disappointed. The best I can say is that I learned some things--the book takes you around Afghanistan in the 1940s, introducing a variety of places and cultures and including pertinent historical information--and that's why it gets 2 stars despite being otherwise awful.

This book suffers from the twin problems of an uninspired, meandering plot and a narrator who is one of the most unlike
Aug 05, 2007 Naeem rated it liked it
In the summer of 1973, I was caught in an apartment in the middle of Bangkok. With 100 degrees and 95% humidity 24 hours a day and my burning desire to exit the stage of my family life, I had only one release -- readying. I think I read half a dozen of Michener's books. Including this one on Afghanistan.

The book is, of course, outdated. It was published in 1962. But there is still a reason to read it. I think it reads well paired with Jason Elliot's An Unexpected Light -- the best travel book I
Hock Tjoa
Jan 22, 2013 Hock Tjoa rated it really liked it
Published in 1963 and set in 1946-7 (before the Partition of India), this book reminds us what a great investigator and thoughtful writer Michener was. The story itself is outmoded and Michener does not show great insight into the psychology of his characters. But one wonders if anyone in "exceptional" America read it when Charlie Wilson went to arm the Taliban against the Soviet supported regime, when soldiers were sent after 9/11 only to remain there for a dozen years. The author described Kab ...more
Katherine Gypson
Apr 22, 2013 Katherine Gypson rated it liked it
Caravans, James Michener's 1963 novel about the then-largely unknown country of Afghanistan, is a historical novel in more ways than one. Written sixteen years before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that would spark three decades of war, Caravans takes the reader even farther back than Michener's own time to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul in the days just after the end of World War II.

Part of what makes this novel so fascinating is that the reader knows more about Afghan history than Michener did
Don Fannin
Jun 28, 2013 Don Fannin rated it it was amazing
I first read this book in college 65 to 69. And I am rereading it now. I almost never read a book. But as the US got involved in Afghanistan it framed the way I thought about the country. As with all of Michener's good novels this is a story, a travelogue, social and political commentary, and history. To be honest the story is weak. It is good enough to keep you reading but not enthralling by any means. The travelogue is magnificent. Word pictures of a dusty dirty part of the world, primitive wh ...more
Jul 01, 2013 Sean rated it it was ok
Definitely one of the lesser James Michener novels. An American embassy worker in Kabul, 1946 goes searching for a missing American girl who has run off with a Afghani. The book is vaguely interesting for its descriptions of an Afghanistan mostly untouched by Western influences, but little else. You're not going to remember any of the characters. There is exactly one gripping scene, when the protagonist witnesses a adulterous woman stoned to death by a mob in Kandahar. Also, the book has a fairl ...more
Jul 09, 2015 LemonLinda rated it really liked it
I am never disappointed when I read a Michener book. For readers who enjoy a well researched, well written historical fiction with well developed characters, Michener is a good choice. This one is set in Afghanistan immediately following WWII when the US and Russia are both vying to elevate their influence in this country where life is still very much as has been for centuries without change.

First published in 1963, this book offers insight into this culture, their history, their ways of living
Beverly Kent
When I read all the other Michner books, I don't know how I missed this one. I have a vague memory that it was made into a movie (which wasn't very good), but the story has great appeal. A different time and surely a different place, but the plot is believable and a good summer read.
Mar 15, 2016 Teri-k rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The best part of this book was the strong sense of place and the look into different strands of life in Afghanistan in the late 1940's. I wasn't crazy about the missing American, Ellen, but she was really a small part of the whole. So to me the story line was weak but the sense of place and character made up for that. Michener lived and traveled extensively in the country, and not on air-conditioned tour buses, and he has the ability to make a place come alive. He certainly did that here. This i ...more
Sep 12, 2016 Pamela rated it really liked it
Even though I think this book could be diagnosed with multiple personality disorder, I give it 4 stars. The main character is Afghanistan and composes the first personality: vibrantly rendered, interesting, eye-opening. This is the kind of book you want to read with Google at your fingertips, as I really liked seeing the places Michener wrote about. Some were fictional, some were not, but he explains this in his afterword. Even just seeing images of Afghanistan was enough to enhance my experienc ...more
Bryce Holt
Sep 14, 2015 Bryce Holt rated it it was amazing
A beautiful stroll across the entire country of Afghanistan right after World War 2, "Caravans" pays homage to the passionate and remarkable people of Afghanistan instead of focusing on the negatives that the country often currently is associated with. If your heart doesn't sing to go see this place after you've read it, and I must be very different people.

By reading a book published in 1963, you see a part of the world that has a current stigma from a completely different vantage poi
Jul 01, 2009 Don rated it liked it
It's funny, I've never really been much of a Michener fan through all of my readings. Each time I read one I do enjoy the history. However, there's something about his style that just doesn't resonate with me.

Given that, Caravans takes you on a whirlwind adventure into the heart of Afghanistan in 1946. A young, American Jewish consulate worker is sent to find a missing American woman who married an Afghan because she despises her father for his bourgeouis American lifestyle.

Traveling through the
Shelter Somerset
Aug 20, 2013 Shelter Somerset rated it it was ok
The protagonist, whose name we don’t learn until well into the novel, gives a hackneyed travelogue of Afghanistan: the strange Middle Eastern custom of sex with transgendered young men and boys, brutal public executions for the most mundane offenses (including stealing another man's boy), and the mysterious Afghani women wearing the cloaked chaderi. For today's standards, these practices are hardly shocking or revealing. The protagonist's Western condescension, apart from the narrator finding th ...more
Feb 21, 2012 Kathleen rated it really liked it
Interesting book set in Afghanistan right after World War II, about efforts on the part of some of the more modern (educated, forward-thinking) Afghans to bring their country into the twentieth century. It's told from the point of view of an American embassy worker who travels around the country, first to look for an American girl who married an Afghan and then disappeared, and later to determine whether the Russians were sneaking into Afghanistan to try to take over.

The author put a note at the
Jim Awe
Apr 04, 2015 Jim Awe rated it liked it
Michener is my guilty pleasure of reading. I know it's not great literature, but I always learn something and he makes me want to go explore wherever it is he is writing about (in this case, Afghanistan, which is a pretty good accomplishment!). This isn't the normal Michener multi-generational tome, but a standard, concise story. Set in post WWII Afghanistan as the Russians and Americans are setting up shop for future struggles. It was written in 1962, but seems completely topical today. Against ...more
Dec 13, 2008 Alison rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 01, 2015 Donna rated it really liked it
I read this book when I was in the Peace Corps. It fueled my desire to visit many strange lands...which I eventually did on my way home from a 3 year stint.
Apr 10, 2008 Abby rated it really liked it
Even though this book is set a bazillion years ago (I don't know, like in the 1940's or something), whenever I think of Afghanistan, I think of this book. I read it in high school. I still remember a scene where a woman was stoned to death in public. It never disturbed me to read in the Bible about people being stoned to death until I read this book. I still get chills each time I read about a stoning the scriptures to this day. It is a surprisingly gruesome event, for how little it's described ...more
Karin D.
Jan 24, 2016 Karin D. rated it liked it
Very interesting and insighful on Aghanistan but the plot is quite weak
Johnny LeBon
Aug 13, 2012 Johnny LeBon rated it it was amazing
This was one of Michener's early books. Set in Afghanistan in 1946,it follows one Mark Miller. A Jew who works for the U.S. State Dept. He is asked to find the whereabouts of Ellen Jaspar. His journey starts in Kabul, where he is stationed, and ends up.....well, I won't reveal where he ends up.

This is a very relevant book in regards to Afghanistan. michener really delves into the history and culture of the country and is prescient when it comes to its future (the book was written in 1963).

If you
Mar 11, 2014 Lily rated it liked it
This was the first Michener book I read. I chose it because it was set in Afghanistan, a place that has garnered much attention in my lifetime. I found his style of writing to be very interesting, and the book was different than anything else I've previously read. I will seek out other titles by Michener.

This story centers around a missing American girl (Ellen) who married an Afghan told by the US embassy worker who is tasked with locating her. Along the way he meets a former Nazi
I enjoyed this book, despite its rather poor writing and characters that I really couldn't like. That might seem odd, but it was interesting to read about Afghanistan (even if fictionalized) in the late 40s from a writer in the early 60s. Michener knew an enormous amount about Afghanistan from many trips here before he wrote the book, and it really shows in his descriptions.
Feb 21, 2016 Sally rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Come home, nice American girl. Afghanistan is not a good place!" "Fuck off" was the only reasonable response, which she thankfully gave. Didn't put them off following her around and trying to change her mind. I have always identified strongly with Ellen, and understand entirely why she didn't want to spend her life in Dorset, Pennsylvania. She was a hippy before her time.

Set in 1946, and published in 1964 this is one of my favourite books of all time, and one to which I return often. There is a
Aug 18, 2016 Susan rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, middle-east
This is not spectacular. And it drips with the cliched anti-hippy attitudes of the "Greatest Generation". But it was written nearly fifteen years ago and Michener was clearly genuinely trying to share information about Afghanistan. I'm working on learning about that part of the world and this was a pleasant venture. As with many of Michener's books there are episodes of intense cruelty described in it. (I can't for example read his book on Mexico. I can't get into it at all because of the descri ...more
Dec 04, 2014 Beth rated it liked it
This book was a re-read for me. I read it years ago and remembered really liking it so I thought I would try it again. I still liked it, but not as much. I thought the history was fascinating. The Afghanistan of 1946 really has not changed that much from current Afghanistan. I read of burkas, beheadings and stonings. All thing that could have been ripped from today's headlines. The gigantic Buddha was mentioned and the conflict between the Russian and American interests in the country.

What I di
Feb 19, 2011 Donna rated it really liked it
Still timely after all these years. Michener describes a wild, harsh, and unforgiving land, the resilient people who live there, and a political future which is amazingly close to what has actually occurred in the last 20 years.
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James Albert Michener is best known for his sweeping multi-generation historical fiction sagas, usually focusing on and titled after a particular geographical region. His first novel, Tales of the South Pacific , which inspired the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific, won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Toward the end of his life, he created the Journey Prize, awarded annually for t
More about James A. Michener...

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“We are never prepared for what we expect.” 57 likes
“Afghanistan, one of the most inconspicuous nations on earth. In 1946 it was just emerging from the bronze age, a land incredibly old, incredibly tied to an ancient past. At the embassy we used to say, “Kabul today shows what Palestine was like at the time of Jesus.” 1 likes
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