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San Miguel

3.66  ·  Rating Details ·  3,324 Ratings  ·  539 Reviews
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
Hardcover, 367 pages
Published September 18th 2012 by Viking (first published September 1st 2012)
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(showing 1-30)
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MJ Nicholls
Desperate airport purchase. Stranded at München Flughafen for a terrible six hours and Edinburgh Airport for a further five, this appalling if readable novel saved me from terminal boredom as I hallucinated to the muffled muzak emerging from distant speakers and spooned a Russian woman sleeping on a bench waiting for the 6am to Moscow (last part untrue—a large woodsman “invited” me to spoon and I could not refuse). T.C. Boyle is a hack and semi-competent craftsman who writes and publishes too mu ...more
Dec 17, 2014 Chrissie rated it really liked it
I see no need in repeating what is stated in the book description.

On completing this book I knew immediately why I liked this book so much. Two reasons, the first, the most important, being that the author captures how people think and talk and relate to each other. Time after time I felt that the relationship between the Lesters, Elise and Herbie, was so realistically drawn that the author must have understood them. They are people that really existed, as well as the first family followed in t
Ron Charles
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.
Sep 27, 2012 Melissa rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Laura Leaney
Sep 13, 2015 Laura Leaney rated it liked it
Recommended to Laura by: The Sound and the Furry Book Club
Once upon a time, I actually camped two nights on San Miguel Island, hiking fifteen miles from Cuyler Harbor to Bennett Point and back on a day full of extreme glare. I was in my late thirties and I was still pretty dumb. Late bloomer. I had a fabulous time for all the wrong reasons, mostly because I was not paying attention. Of course I noticed the thousands of pinnipeds, the whales, the dolphins, the birds, the "Do Not Enter" signs posted everywhere, the impressively dense fog, and O.....let m ...more
Jun 10, 2016 Joyce rated it liked it
Often times when driving in a rural area, I wonder why people choose to live in such isolated places.

Well, this book is about two families who have decided to live on the island of San Miguel, off the California coast near Santa Barbara in earlier times -- no electricity, no indoor plumbing, a wood stove for heat, no radios, phones, limited food supplies, an environment where gardens wouldn't last, dependent on periodic boats for supplies and access to medical care, no schools or playmates for
Brian Gluckman
Dec 01, 2012 Brian Gluckman rated it liked it
San Miguel is essentially two-and-a-half books in one, detailing the lives of two different families--and three different women--on the island. An historical novel loosely bases off the stories of real people, the potential seems high in Boyle's capable hands. The unfortunate issue is that these two sets of stories differ significantly in overall quality. The first feels pulled from a bad romance novel, with characters who feel like cardboard cutouts, despite being based on real people. The seco ...more
T.C. Boyle tells us the story of a family on the San Miguel Island. The desolate island makes for a backdrop for the trials and tribulations of family. Boyle takes us on a vivid join of hard living and stubborn people in a novel of love and hate.

I’ve never actually read a T.C. Boyle novel before but I’ve heard he is a great storyteller, so I was excited to read this novel. This is a book of major family drama, I get the feeling that being stuck on a desolate island off the coast of California is
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out

Inspired by historical records, T.C. Boyle tells the story of the Waters and Lester families during their respective tenures of San Miguel Island. Two brides, fifty years apart, journey to the tiny haven off the Californian coast in support of their husbands enthusiasm for its potential but the tiny windswept island resists the determined efforts of its tenants to tame it.

It is the landscape of San Miguel that takes precedence in this novel, the characters little more than visitors to a place th
Barbara Burd
Sep 02, 2012 Barbara Burd rated it really liked it
San Miguel Island is the strongest character in this novel. The island is seen through the eyes of three different women, who lived on the island during different time periods. Marantha is a consumptive who comes to the island with her demanding husband in the hopes of finding better air quality and a healthier environment to heal her disease. The rugged terrain and lifestyle, along with a controlling husband, set out to defeat her, but she fights for survival, mostly in hopes that she can chang ...more
Jan 09, 2013 Deborah rated it did not like it
If I ever threaten to read another T C Boyle book, just shoot me.
Two noteworthy families – two different eras - one sheep ranch - and a slew of challenges (natural and otherwise) that will make or break their ‘pioneering’ spirits on the island of San Miguel.

Boyle’s novel is two stories fused into one, derived from historical documentations then liberally expanded upon through creative license and fictionalized dramatization. In which Boyle clearly states that “San Miguel” is a work of fiction, not an exacting account of history. Every word and/or scene may n
Dec 27, 2014 Jeanette rated it really liked it
Whew, this was an emotional read for me. The writer has skill and an unusual gift for psychological insight. But it is far rarer here because it is coupled with the excellence of how he portrays the passing of time as it is lived in an ordinary life. How the days are same/same when they are loaded with work and routine, and yet 3 years can go by and there is a difference in the face or body while you had too little time to notice. People have often worked that hard and that long to a goal before ...more
sarah  corbett morgan
I love TC Boyle's writing. Now that I have that disclaimer out of the way, let me just say that, again, Boyle has written a stunner. He seems to have become infatuated with the Channel Islands, that low-lying chain of small land masses off the southern California coast. (His last book, When the Killing's Done, was set on one of those islands, as well.)

This historical novel is told from the perspective of three generations of women of San Miguel, starting in the late 19th Century. You might be a
Aug 15, 2012 Erin rated it really liked it
Well researched and well written - and a good read. Based on the lives of two real families in two different time periods who tried their hand at pioneering on San Miguel Island – a desolate, deserted spot off the California coast – it was like reading a double novel in one.

Told from the viewpoint of the women who lived there, the first half of the book is set in the late 1800’s, and the second part takes place in the 1930’s. There were similar elements in both stories – the surprisingly harsh
Dec 13, 2015 Frank rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read several of Boyle's works including his novels and short stories and I always find his prose and descriptions exquisite. Some of his novels are better than others and San Miguel is a good one. It tells the story of two different families who go to live on San Miguel Island off the coast of California to raise sheep and live a harsh existence amid the wind, desolation, and storms that come in from the Pacific. The first family, the Waters, come to the island in 1888 on the pretense tha ...more
Oct 05, 2012 g rated it really liked it
Shelves: californiana
After reading When the Killing's Done and a handful of various other stories by T.C. Boyle, I'd pegged him as a Jonathan Franzen-type: whip smart, invested in current events, darkly humorous, satirical, and all too ready to lord it over and roast his characters any chance he gets--in short, the type of writer who exhausts and ultimately irritates me. But this novel, San Miguel, "makes an ass[of]u[and]me." In it Boyle displays the nuance, empathy, and craft of some of the best Western writers: ...more
I knew it was time for me to put this book down when, in the unexpected downtime of a snow day, I found myself grabbing at all kinds of excuses not to pick it up. On a day like this I'd normally be thrilled to have some free reading time. But this book just wasn't calling to me.

I'm giving it three stars in part because I readily acknowledge that I may not have given it a fair chance. In fact, the writing was very evocative. Maybe too evocative. I deeply felt the bleak atmosphere of the windswept
Oct 14, 2012 Alice rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
Although this book is beautifully written, it gradually becomes less interesting. Perhaps because it is based on diaries and first-hand accounts, it has a journal-like feel to it and the entries become rather stale. The first half is most compelling, yet because it starts with the main character already dying of TB on a beautiful but godforsaken island, it leaves too many questions. Foremost among them is why she married the man she did. An act which greatly increased her chances of dying from h ...more
Mij Woodward
Aug 14, 2013 Mij Woodward rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hist-fiction


I was taken back in time and to a new place for me to get to know--San Miguel.

Got into the shoes of three women, each with their own particular story. Riveting.

And how does a guy write a work from a female's point of view, and "get it"? Superb writing.

While I was reading this novel, I controlled myself to not Google the names of people and places; to stay away from Wiki for the duration of the novel. So, it was sheer joy and stimulating to follow along with these interes
Holger Reichard
Aug 22, 2013 Holger Reichard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Für mich Boyles bester Roman seit »Drop City«. Zwar hat das Buch in der Mitte ein paar Längen, aber das ist der nicht uninteressanten Dramaturgie geschuldet. (Er fängt im Mittelteil quasi eine neue Geschichte an.) Herausragend finde ich nach wie vor Boyles Fähigkeit, Personen, Ereignisse und Stimmungen aus dem 18. und 19. Jahrhundert zu vermitteln. Das hat mir bei »Wild Child« gefallen und liebe ich an »Wassermusik«. In »San Miguel« ist Boyle dies erneut gelungen, wenn auch auf sehr bedrückende ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
T.C. Boyle loves writing about real people who did things in real life which almost appear utter madness to have attempted, or simply plain crazy. Boyce's writing is beautiful and literary, stuffed full of haunting sentences and lyrical descriptions which I want to keep repeating to myself and mark down. It appears to me he is better and better with each book. Although Boyle grabs his characters from the news or history and follows their actual footsteps in his novels, he uses an imagined interi ...more
Jenny Shank
Oct 23, 2012 Jenny Shank rated it liked it

Suffering and freedom in a microcosm: A review of San Miguel
REVIEW - From the October 15, 2012 issue of High Country News
By Jenny Shank

California writer T.C. Boyle's 14th novel, San Miguel, continues his exploration of the Channel Islands, off the coast of Santa Barbara, Calif., which began with last year's When The Killing's Done. This time, Boyle focuses on windswept San Miguel Island and the histories of two very different families who inhabit it betwee
Roman Clodia
Oct 08, 2016 Roman Clodia rated it really liked it
'The island was crushing her, she'd known it all along'

This is a bleak and harsh read, as desolate as the eponymous, unwelcoming island which is almost a character in its own right. Focalised through three women, and set between 1888 and sometime after the second world war, there is little dialogue or external drama in this book, and instead the tensions are internalised. Misunderstanding and gulfs of experience open up between characters, rendering them isolated and frequently shorn of human wa
In the end I quite liked it. But it did take a while to warm to it — that didn't happen until about a quarter of the way through.
I didn’t really appreciate until much further along that so much of it is based on historical events on the island of San Miguel, one of the Channel Islands across from Santa Barbara in California. Windy, often fogbound, cold, wet and isolated, it was a harsh environment for the sheep ranching family that tried to make a go of it in the late 1800s. They are the subject
Aug 07, 2013 Teddy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2013
Though San Miguel was a departure from his other works, T.C. Boyle did not disappoint! All of the past works of his that I have read had a lot of ironic humor. His biting humor is part of what I love about him. However, San Miguel was written as straight historical fiction. It was quite deep and depressing but to insert humor would have distracted and taken away from the story.

Based on historical records, Two different families settle on a small Island off the coast of California on in the late
Jan 05, 2013 George rated it liked it
Set on an island off the California coast, T.C. Boyle's San Miguel does a beautiful job of capturing the isolation of his setting. He writes wonderfully, artful without being pretentious, well-detailed without being overly verbose. I really think I could have liked this book a lot more than I did, if it wasn't so boring. Part of the problem, I suspect, is that when an author does such a good job of portraying desolation, it falls on the characters to keep things interesting. For much of the firs ...more
Allyson Batis
Dec 05, 2012 Allyson Batis rated it it was amazing
After I finished "San Miguel" I just sat and reflected on it. I had other books to read, and the plot is straightforward- there was no need to puzzle out any threads to figure out the ending. It has been a long time since a book has made me feel so intensely that I needed some time to reflect on the book and how it makes me feel.

I am biased. I like Boyle. This book has many qualities I like in books- historical fiction that doesn't prettify or demean the era, women who stand up to men and who ar
Dec 14, 2012 Dawn rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chris Brude
Nov 25, 2012 Chris Brude rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012-books

Having read all of Boyle's novels, I approached this one with certain expectations that he fulfilled: the man crafts a sentence like no other author, the narrative would not be linear, and that I would finish the book in a single day. This book fulfills those expectations.

This novel is divided into three sections composed of the stories of Marantha, a consumptive brought here at the dawn of the twentieth century, Edith, who is Marantha's stepdaughter forced to live on this island outpost after
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Madison Mega-Mara...: # 29 San Miguel 1 1 Apr 11, 2014 10:20PM  
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T. Coraghessan Boyle (also known as T.C. Boyle, born Thomas John Boyle on December 2, 1948) is a U.S. novelist and short story writer. Since the late 1970s, he has published eleven novels and more than 60 short stories. He won the PEN/Faulkner award in 1988 for his third novel, World's End, which recounts 300 years in upstate New York. He is married with three children. Boyle has been a Distinguis ...more
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“A glad zest and hopefulness might be inspired even in the most jaded and ennui-cursed, were there in our homes such simple, truthful natures as that of my heroine, and it is in the sphere of quiet homes—not elsewhere—I believe that a woman can best rule and save the world.” 1 likes
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