Brian's Reviews > Chesapeake

Chesapeake by James A. Michener
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's review
Aug 22, 12

Read from March 28 to May 28, 2012

People out here have been calling this a real "page turner"....well, at roughly 1000 pages, it's hard to escape without turning lots and lots of them.

It is a good book, but it's also a long hard slog. I'm not ready to go out and read another thick Michener anytime soon. In Chesapeake, he covers the history of Maryland's Eastern Shore from Native American times prior to European arrival, through the 1970's. The book has several focal points....

- Quakers seeking refuge from persecution

- The decline of the local native Americans

- The revolutionary war, the war of 1812, and associated blockade
running piracy on the bay.

- Slavery, the slave trade, the civil war, and Maryland's
placement between the deep south, and the north.

- Crabbing, oystering, and the mass over hunting of waterfowl.

The various topics are threaded into a narrative by following several families through generations (yes, there is a chapter in which all the characters are actually geese).

Readable, especially being from the area (as lots of local stuff is described). But it really loses focus when it gets into the last half of the 20th century. He tries to bring in contemporary topics such as the building of the bay bridge, housing development, littering, etc, but they're just too hard to deal with quickly and by the time you get to this point, you're already in for 800 pages. He seems tired of writing, and I know I was tired of reading, so the story just peters out.

Finally, the book was published in 1978, which means it was written during Watergate. The fact that Nixon was a Quaker was too irresistible, so the last part of the book, already losing focus, gets mired in 1970's politics (certainly a big deal then, but now seems a lot less interesting).

...and the "last part" of a 1000 page novel is about the size of a normal book all by itself.


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Reading Progress

03/30/2012 page 11
1.0% "We're off to a good start"
04/01/2012 page 64
7.0% "thus far we've been introduced to some native americans and learned about john smith exploring the chesapeake"

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