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San Miguel

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  2,402 ratings  ·  449 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
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Hardcover, 367 pages
Published September 18th 2012 by Viking Adult
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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
Chrissie
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
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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.
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Melissa
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michael
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
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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
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Brian Gluckman
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
Deborah
If I ever threaten to read another T C Boyle book, just shoot me.
Erin
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
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Barbara Burd
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
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
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g
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: S ...more
K
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
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Alice
Oct 14, 2012 Alice rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
Holger Reichard
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 eVoLvEs (ex-Groot)
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
Berit
One of the most beautiful books I have read in a long time. I absolutely loved it. Both the story and the writing are phenomenal. Take a passage like this one, for example:

"She thought of her own separation from Herbie, first at the Brooks' then at the Whites', and how each day had slammed down on her like the door to a vault and how nothing had seemed right, not the sun in the morning or the food on the table or the air moving through the window screens, heavy with the scent of orange blossoms
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Jenny Shank
http://www.hcn.org/issues/44.17/entra...

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
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George
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
Cheryl
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
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Vicky
T.C. Boyle writes his own unique brand of historical fiction (fictional history). I have read two of his previous books--The Road to Wellville and The Inner Circle--and enjoyed them both, but I really liked San Miguel. I was intrigued when I saw an ad in The Atlantic since it is set on San Miguel, one of the 5 Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara, CA. I have visited Santa Cruz, another of these beautiful, isolated islands that now comprise Channel Islands National Park and Marine Sanct ...more
Dawn
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Allyson Batis
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
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Chris Brude


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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Cindy
The island, San Miguel, becomes a character in this historical fiction novel. I found that the island contributed or enhanced the feeling of claustrophobia that the first narrator felt, the feeling of incarceration that the second woman felt and finally the feeling of freedom from the third women.
After reading this novel I decided to do a little of my own research. I became impressed at the way this author stayed very close to the historical records that have been previously published but bre
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Teddy
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
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Beth
Even if for no other reason, I appreciate T.C. Boyle for his ability to write genuinely about women. His newest novel, San Miguel, is a perfect example, a revelation of history, environment, and social mythology told through the lens of female experience. While all the characters are deeply explored and fully manifested, Boyle’s unique genius is his ability to surmount the representational nature of ‘woman’ while still installing his protagonists firmly in a place and time. In addition, his natu ...more
Patrick Garrett
My grandmother chastised me for spending full price on this book at a Barnes and Noble. "You should never pay the price on the flap," she said, offering to take me to Costco next Sunday to my my next read. I didn't mind, though. The book's cover is beautiful, so even before reading, it gave a nice look to my coffee table. I don't like the spine, though, designed to look like an engraved piece of driftwood. It took me a long time to get through and is much slower than Boyle's other books, but the ...more
Betty
This was interesting- I didn't realise it was based on actual historical figures- families who lived on San Miguel Island until the end of the novel. It is not doubt why I felt the plot wasn't leading to anything in particular. It is set in the early 20th century. The characters were well fleshed out and it as a good reminder of how deadly it can be to work away at a subsistence level and be reliant on your own produce (lamb every night for dinner).
Kasa Cotugno
T C Boyle has found his niche -- after remaining unclassifiable through years of writing diverse works that roamed all possibilities but never settled on one genre, he has taken to a form of historical fiction that breathes life into the past. As he lives in Santa Barbara, in the only Frank Lloyd Wright house in the area, his fascination with his city's past has resulted in several explorations. This latest tells the story of San Miguel Island through the eyes of three women who lived there, two ...more
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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.” 0 likes
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