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3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  1,445 ratings  ·  85 reviews
Here, in the fresh, vivid prose that is James Michener's trademark, is the real Spain as he experiences it. He not only reveals the celebrated Spain of bullfights and warror kings, painters and processions, cathedrals and olive orchards; he also shares the intimate, often hidden Spain he has come to know, where toiling peasants and their honest food, the salt of the shores...more
Paperback, 960 pages
Published October 12th 1984 by Fawcett Crest Books (first published 1968)
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I'm pretty certain I read most of this 40-50 years ago. I had sort of a romance with Spain for awhile, probably because of Death in the Afternoon.

I find myself drawn to the book again. Not that I think I will undertake reading such a door-stopper all the way through, especially since it must be dated to some extent.

Michener says in his introduction (30+ pages, which really must be read to understand Michener's fascination with Spain) the author says "I have always regarded Spain as my second ho...more
Rex Fuller
Michener is, of course, a giant. Bridges at Toko-Ri was one of the first books I ever read. Somehow, I only read a few of his after that, Tales of the South Pacific, Chesapeake, and Texas. So, I’m no expert. But I can say this book taught me more about Spain than I learned visiting it or from a bunch of years of Spanish. Here is some of what Michener shows us:

The Spanish system of surnames. Extremadura, poor, hard-scrabble region bordering Portugal, where Balboa, de Soto, Cortez, and Pizarro all...more
Chad Fairey
I decided to dive into this over the holidays, as part of an ensuing and voracious quest to soak up as many dimensions of Spanish culture as possible. I've long been a very appreciative fan of Michener's historical epics - this tome is no Chesepeake, Hawaii or The Source, however, all of which offer exhaustive and near encyclopedic treatments of their respective subjects. This autobiographical work, drawing on Michener's personal experiences in the Iberian peninsula between the 1930s and 1960s,...more
E Camou
Este libro es una lectura obligada para quien desee conocer España desde el punto de vista de un turista ilustrado... es una excelente introducción a la cultura, geografía y temperamento ibéricos.
fascinating saga... the world of Spain as it was 50 years ago. The history of the second half of the 20th century is beyond comprehension... Michener did an awesome job of presenting it in vivid narrative.
I love Michener, but I have tried this travelogue several times and I just cannot get into it.

I feel disappointed. Obviously, Michener had a love for Spain. I long to read a classic Michenerian historical fiction of Spain that walks me through the glories and horrors of it's years. Each time I pick up this book, that is what I seek. The rise and fall of the Spanish empire and how this history ties into the people and state of Spain today.

Unfortunately, for this work, Michener chose a travelogue...more
Rich in detail and covers a wide range of subjects, from history and art to food and economics, much of it communicated in the words of people the author met. And yet... even aside from being dated - I can only wonder just how much... the book was a bit of a slog and started to seem repetitive after a while. Michener does a wonderful job of evoking detail, but there are just too many of them. And at times I found myself wondering whether he believed the outlandish opinions he was quoting or not....more
A wonderful book! I read it about 25 years ago, then reread it last month and enjoyed it even more, as in the meantime, I've travelled the length and breadth of Spain. He's just so spot-on about everything concerning the country, and his love for all things Spanish just oozes from every page. He's one of that vanishing breed - travel writers in the mould of Herodotus & Co. He doesn't just breeze in and out of a country, making rapid value judgments and classifying the people into his own men...more
Lindsey Wallis
While I generally enjoy James Michener's writing, this one was a bit of a slog. I enjoyed the vivid descriptions of his journies through Spain, peppered with colourful bits of Spanish history, but for me, where it fell down was the endless descriptions of artwork and architecture in Spanish cathedrals. A picture is worth a thousand words --- or in this case a few thousand!

The book ranges from poular destinations such as Pamplona for the running of the bulls and the pilgramage of Santiago de Comp...more
Kathryn Wilder
Unlike his other books this one took me a while to warm to, but I soon found a terrific read in this gem.
Dick Edwards
This is a remarkable book, a statement I seem to make about all of JAM’s books. This book is different than the others of his that I have read. Instead of the exploration of a place and its history through the artifact of a fictional story with fictional characters running through it, this book is a travel book in which JAM describes the plazas, cathedrals, art museums, etc., of 13 locations plus others seen in side trips. Much of the history of Spain is revealed as we travel along with JAM, and...more
My favorite Michener book and one of the finest travel books ever written.
Wow I have been working on this book for a long time! It took me almost a year to finish - which says something. Michener wasn't as readable as I'm used to, although it got easier as I got used to it. This is a surprising, eye-opening account of Spain, the Spanish people, their lives, history, and traditions. It is non-fiction and follows Michener's travels through Spain. I loved the history. I want to visit Barcelona and the Mediterranean coast, and the Balearic Islands. I'm glad to learn about...more
Adam K.
I checked in and out of this one, but Michener's prose is accessible as always, delightful and instructive. I'm more a fan of his fiction, as I think his passion for his subjects is transfered through his characters and plot and thus is more infectious that way, if that makes sense. The running character here is Michener himself in this travelogue, and if you don't share his passion for Spain, you won't quite feel transported here. Nevertheless, I enjoy Michener a lot. He writes smart stuff for...more
Great book about Spain and it's wonders.
This was a beast to get through and I took some serious time off after I began reading. It was an epic novel which had me looking on the iphone/internet for more information on art and history than I could handle, since there was so much of interest. It is different than his other novels which have ficticious characters. It was simply a Michener travelogue. I can't believe one person could know so much about Spain and its' culture, let alone the fact that he has written many epic novels about ot...more
Kevin Xu
I thought this book all would be was Michener's travel through Spain, but no its more than half about the history, which is really boring to me, especially the way it was written into his travel by selection, so I could not get into the book. But I should have expected the history mixed in with his travel, since in all his fictional books about different locations it is basically a history of the location from the beginning of time on how the land was created to the present time.
Finally I have finished this book. It is a wonderful book but so dense with writing and information I found I had to take it in doses with time for lighter reading.

I started this book while in Spain, intending to read each pertinent section as I visited the place. I kept up pretty well but, as much as we saw we did not cover as much of Spain as Michener who was there so much over many years. Probably the most knowledgeable writer of any book I've read.
Read while I was traveling in Spain in 1983. Was the book great fun because I read it while in Spain, or was Spain great fun because while there I read this book? Wonderful combo of culture, history, lit crit, food, drink, geography, and stories, providing helpful insight into the country and its people. Culled sangria and gazpacho recipes from this book which formed the basis for my own twist on both. Gives me a headache just thinking about those hangovers...
Typical Michener; exhaustively complete. Reading this augmented a recent trip to Spain. Even though it was written some 45 years ago, there is much to gain from it. Of course modern history is absent--Franco was still in power--but in a land with a couple of millenia of history, missing a few decades isn't that much of the story! Note this is non-fiction, as opposed to his most frequent form of comprehensive historical fiction.
Sep 30, 2008 Karen rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Spain
I read this book while living in Bilbao, Spain. Since it was written during the Franco era, the historical aspects of the book enthralled me. It gave me an overall sense and desire to learn and appreciate more the history, not only of Spain, but of the Basque people, their culture, history and tragedies they have faced as a people. I loved reading this book while living there and found it very fascinating.
Laura Duggan
I was a little disappointed that this book was more of a travel journal rather than his fiction-intertwined-with-fact books like Hawaii and Texas. Michener does a wonderful job of describing Spain's many regions and obviously loves the country. I enjoyed his interesting tidbits on historical events and comments on everyday life. This was written in the 60's so the cost of living was very skewed but entertaining.
Sep 12, 2007 Susan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Minnesotans
Two words: "viva yo." Mitchner gives us a 1960's American's take on Spain. Most of it is very consistent with my experiences living there, especially his discussion of the "viva yo" -- an attitude I frequently encountered (especially in Madrid) and now try to emulate whenever possible. It basically translates as "long live me" and is best described as the exact opposite of the way Minnesotans operate.
This proved to be a great book to read in preparation for a trip to Spain, even though it was written almost 50 years ago during the Franco years. Michener covers art, history, food, music, nature, religion, bullfighting, politics, and more. I returned to Michener with some reluctance; I had long ago grown tired of his big fat novels. But this big fat travelogue was just what I was looking for.
Refreshening and enlightening. Michener offers the reader through his experiences with Spain an alternative perspective to world history, as oppossed to the pervasive Anglo-Saxon outlook.
However I found the religiosity of the people and the land unnerving and sometimes irritable.
On the whole one can summarize this book in one word: 'Estupendo!'
Mar 30, 2008 Mark added it
I read this book while living in Spain. This book is filled with history and stories from Spain. Huge amount of information and many tales that when discussed with Spaniards shocked many that the story was alive in an English language book. Written during Franco years, many of Michener's questions are still haunting current spanish culture and history.
It's one of James Michener's well-researched, well-written, and well distributed works. I would like to read more of his books -- they are always a pleasure. This one helped spark my eventual love affair with the Iberian Peninsula, which has been a bit more on the sour side with the pathetic exchange rate lately. It was nice in the '90s, though.

Not my favorite Michener, and so I only read the parts about places I experienced on my trip in October: Barcelona, Pamplona, Basque country including San Sebastian, and Camino de Santiago. I'll have to admit it was fascinating to read Michener's first-hand description of la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona in 1966 and compare it to now in 2013.
Charles Wright
This is one of the most splendid, or grandest, books I have ever read. After reading Laurie Lee's 'As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning', I really wanted another good book about Spain. In the foreword to the edition I have of Lee's book, he recommended Espana; I bought it from amazon for peanuts and was blown over. Magnifico!
I read this quite a while ago and at the time, I didn't recognise the modern Iberia he was preaching about. All that I remember, was the lack of political and cultural objectivity, and very much written from the hymn books of Oliver Cromwell and Elizabeth I. It lacks understanding, balance and empathy. Not a pleasure to read.
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Please recommend books set in Spain/Portugal 7 10 Feb 20, 2013 08:22AM  
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  • The New Spaniards
  • Journey to the Alcarria: Travels Through the Spanish Countryside
  • Tales of the Alhambra
  • The Marsh Arabs
  • Roads to Santiago
  • Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese
  • On Persephone's Island: A Sicilian Journal
  • The Spanish Civil War
  • Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through Spain and Its Silent Past
  • The Basque History of the World: The Story of a Nation
  • Heaven's Command: An Imperial Progress (The Pax Britannica Trilogy, #1)
  • National Geographic Guide to the National Parks of the United States
  • The Dangerous Summer
  • The Forest
  • Crossing Open Ground
  • The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain
  • Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder
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 th...more
More about James A. Michener...
Hawaii The Source Centennial The Covenant Chesapeake

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