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The Fires of Spring

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  664 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
"A warm-hearted, readable story, crammed with lively incident and remarkable characters."
THE ATLANTIC
David Harper was an orphan, loney and impoverished. But his longing to embrace the world that abandoned him was stronger than the harsh realities. And even though he's a con man and petty thief at a carnival, he still dreams. For it was there that David learned about love a
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Mass Market Paperback, 480 pages
Published March 12th 1982 by Fawcett (first published 1949)
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Josiah
Apr 12, 2016 Josiah rated it really liked it
"Maybe books are best, because you don't have to have money to read... A man can travel all over the world and come back the same kind of fool he was when he started. You can't do that with books."

—Old Daniel, The Fires of Spring, P. 42

One might wonder after reading this book if the great James A. Michener missed his calling as a novelist for teens. The Fires of Spring is his lone young-adult offering, and it's as sincere and soul-revealing as anything by Mabel L. Robinson, Walter Dean Myers, or
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Adam K.
Mar 23, 2012 Adam K. rated it it was amazing
Probably my favorite Michener novel yet (I've read about 5, I think). This is the ambling, sometimes rambling, story of a young man's experience growing up in the midst of the development of the notion of Americana (I can't think of a better way to put it--it's not the typical American experience, necessarily, but as he dabbles in vaudeville and running a con game at a ticket booth on a boardwalk and editing and publishing pulp trash, I think Americana is a safe way of putting it). It's about ...more
Chuck
Sep 23, 2011 Chuck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first Michener novel I ever read - over 30 years since I picked up my sister's paperback copy. Found a hardback edition online. An opportunity to relive this great coming-of-age story, which hooked me into Dostoevsky and several other classic authors whose works are discussed and quoted in the book. A big influence on my life at the time.
Lisa
Feb 10, 2010 Lisa rated it liked it
I enjoyed it. Early Michener, filled with his usual philosophical observations and anticipatory exclamations. It was before he wrote the research-oriented books, and I'm sure it's semi-autobiographical. In any event, he is so good at describing where he is that it does give the reader a great sense of life in the U.S. circa 1920-1934.
Sonia Reppe
It's the first James Michener book I've read and one of the best books I've ever read. I have mixed feelings about the end, about the girl David ends up with, but I mostly loved the story and the writing, which is so alive.
Agbonmire Ifeh
May 08, 2012 Agbonmire Ifeh rated it it was amazing
In my list of top ten books. I read it as a youth and it moulded my life and gave me understand myself better - because in many ways I am like Harper.I reread it recently and I still felt it's beautiful sting.
joan
Jul 11, 2011 joan rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books. Have read, and re-read many times. Michener draws me in without fanfare or drama.
Wally8541
Jul 31, 2013 Wally8541 rated it it was amazing
Still one of my favorite books. This novel was the launching pad of my reading all the books I read as a youth and that I emerald even to this day.
Jackie
Mar 29, 2015 Jackie rated it really liked it
Shelves: michener
I love Michener. Whether it's something he wrote in the '60s or in the '90s, he always engages me with his storytelling abilities.
Deb
Mar 08, 2012 Deb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Only Michener book I truly adored. I really liked seeing the world through the eyes of the protagonist. I recommend this one.
Elaine
May 23, 2008 Elaine rated it liked it
I read this book in High School and then again a few years ago. I really enjoyed it, both times. It was actually one of the only books I fully read in High School.
Steve
Oct 08, 2015 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finally finished this…only took me three years!!

I actually liked this quite a bit, but I felt that young Michener was a little draconian in his declarations. In theory this is a semi-autobiographical look at how he grew up to become a writer. While elements are certainly relatable (the poorhouse, Doylestown, his orphan status), I'm not sure about the rest of it…for instance, I'm not so sure he was a carny. But I could be incorrect. Anywho, the book follows an orphan from the poorhouse through hi
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David Miller
Oct 30, 2016 David Miller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The Fires of Spring" is Michener's second book: a somewhat autobiographical bildungsroman. The story follows our hero from early boyhood in a country poorhouse to the eve of his marriage. I like Michener's personal books very much: I call them personal because they follow specific people and the main character is the author's alter ego... as opposed to his cultural or place books, that follow a whole country or a whole people.

This book is a real page turner. I love that Michener is not an ideo
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Mark Oppenlander
Sep 02, 2012 Mark Oppenlander rated it liked it
This book is the rambling, somewhat melodramatic rags to riches tale of a young man who grows up in a poorhouse and eventually becomes a professional writer. Along the way he finds somewhat dubious work in an amusement park, is anonymously sponsored with a scholarship to go to college and then wanders the country with a group of traveling actors before finally settling down in NYC editing pulp magazines. There are a lot of characters of ill repute who appear along the way, and the protagonist, ...more
Philip
Aug 28, 2010 Philip rated it liked it
Published in 1949, this was Michener's second book and first novel ( Tales of the South Pacific was actually a collection of connected stories, and was the first winner of the "Pulitzer Prize For Fiction," which until then had been known as the "Pulitzer Prize For the Novel") and is largely autobiographical.

A 'bildungsroman' is defined as "a type of novel concerned with the education, development, and maturing of a young protagonist" and "a novel concerned with a person's formative years" - Th
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John
Sep 11, 2016 John rated it it was amazing
Fun book
Hoyt
Mar 20, 2016 Hoyt rated it really liked it
A surprisingly philosophical coming-of-age story, that made me mark passages in a book for the first time in ages.

Much of the book is a pretty standard tale of a kid growing up, making mistakes, trying to find himself. Every few pages though, you are presented with some deep philosophical musings on people, art, morality, love, conflict, etc. At several points, I had to stop reading and just think about my own life, which really doesn't happen often with my normal reading choices.

After finishi
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Julie
Jun 17, 2012 Julie rated it liked it
This is early Michener -- a coming-of-age novel about a boy growing up in the Midwest during the Depression. My father often told me that it was the closest description he ever read of what life was like during that time. Dad's early childhood was in Oconto, Wisconsin. It's been on my to-read list for a long time, and now, even though I can't discuss it with him, I'll read it with him in my heart.

I'm nearly finished. I'm enjoying the story, but don't really see what Dad must have seen. The book
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Christopher Sutch
Mar 20, 2015 Christopher Sutch rated it it was ok
To say that Michener's first novel is unreadable goes a bit too far. In fact, the style is smooth if not very artful (people "beam" at each other, or "smile" or do other things that lack any sort of real description). The problem is, rather, that everything that happens in the plot is utterly banal and boring. The novel is semi-autobiographical; I suppose that it may even be a story that Michener felt he must tell (or that he adhered too closely to the advice, "Write what you know"). Worse, ...more
Chesleyorama
May 04, 2015 Chesleyorama marked it as to-read
Drawn to the book by the quote (gender neutralized from he to they): 'For this is the journey that humans make: to find themselves. If they fail in this, it doesn’t matter much else they find. But If a person happens to find oneself- if they knows what the can be depended upon to do, the limits of courage, the positions from which they will no longer retreat, the degree to which they can surrender their inner life to someone, the secret reservoirs of their determination, the extent of their ...more
Tress Huntley
Read this on a friend's recommendation, though I was admittedly put off by the age of the book. I think as a narrative, it holds up extremely well over time. I didn't dwell too much on the qualities of style, characterization, etc. Because it seemed beside the point. It's pretty typical Michener: historical fiction rooted in an American setting, although in much less of a "hit you over the head" way than his many other geographically named works. I think this was only his second novel, so I ...more
Aditya /
Jan 02, 2012 Aditya / rated it it was ok
This book started as a 5 star book, then became 4 stars, then 3 stars, then 2 stars, then 1 star. Throughout the book, the writer's talent was amazing. Initially I thought this book was nobel-prize worthy, but then it just got worse and worse and worse and worse! The talent was still there, the book just became unpleasant to read. I think it should be split into 4 novellas and that noone should read past the 2nd novella, or that everything past the 2nd one (everything after Dedham) needs to have ...more
Mathew
Sep 28, 2008 Mathew rated it really liked it
One of Michener's early novels, and for all it's flaws it's really astonishingly good. You don't really find stories like this any more.

It's the story of a young man who grows up essentially an orphan, not too long after the turn of (19th) century. You could call it a coming-of-age novel, and it is, but that doesn't really begin to capture the energy and vitality of the characters.

As well as a good read, it's a pretty insightful portrait of an America that no longer exists. And that is probably
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Robert
May 10, 2012 Robert rated it really liked it
I've read most of Michener but somehow didn't run across this. Initially, I had difficulty getting past the temporal references and general antiquated wording, but once you commit (as it appears impossible not to), the journey is very worthwhile. Expectations are continually ... deferred, and once you understand that you cannot micromanage reading Michener, his pace of development of character, plot, and style take over. Must read. Give to all your young friends and relatives.
Art Denn
Sep 19, 2014 Art Denn rated it it was amazing
As close as you can come to an autobiography, though fictional. It is the story of David Harper, literally from a Pennsylvania poor house to his first writing in New York. Lots of insights into Mennonites, to working in an amusement park, to the delights of the Chautauqua circuit, to growing into an admirable man.
Richard
Dec 22, 2012 Richard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
His first novel I believe. Not a historical novel in the sense of what he later became famous for, but seemed like it was autobiographical. It's been a while since I read it, but I know I liked it a lot.
Derik Scudder
May 08, 2008 Derik Scudder rated it really liked it
Michener's second book. Thus far it's been about an orphaned boy who grows up in a poorhouse under the tutelage of some wise poor-men, a couple good teachers, and a basketball coach... A feel-good coming of age story thus far, I'm looking forward to seeing where Michner takes it...
Marinelle
An all time favorite of mine. He presents it as fiction, but underneath that façade is e a poorly disguised autobiography.
One has to read more of his later books like Memoriam to really appreciate this.
Nora Fascenelli
Oct 17, 2015 Nora Fascenelli rated it really liked it
Help! I am at the end of a very old, worn paperback copy. Several pages are missing at the end! The last page is 408. The last line on that page is "... wind had suddenly swept across the world."

Is there more? Is this the end?
Arlene Newman
Jun 14, 2015 Arlene Newman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Leaves you wanting more

I was surprised by the way that the book ended. I am not so sure that I feel satisfied with this book
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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
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More about James A. Michener...

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“A lot of nonsense is spoken about work. Some of the finest men I've known were the laziest. Never work because it's expected of you. Find out how much work you must do to live and be happy. Don't do any more.” 2 likes
“But thinking is something different, altogether! Think always as if the hot hand of hell were grabbing for you. Think to the limit of your mind. Imagine, dream, hope, want things, drive yourself to goodness. Whatever you do...do it to the absolute best of your ability. Never take the easy way where thinking is concerned.” 1 likes
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