Jeanette "Astute Crabbist"'s Reviews > Caravans

Caravans by James A. Michener
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's review
Jul 25, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: all-fiction, middle-east, four-star-fiction, asia
Recommended to Jeanette by: Julie
Read in June, 2010

James Michener was such an amazing man. Intrepid adventurer, brilliant scholar, prolific author. We shan't see the likes of him again, more's the pity. He traveled extensively in Afghanistan prior to writing this novel. I don't envy him the physical discomfort that must have entailed, but I loved the authenticity it brought to the story.

This book is only about 340 pages---a mere novella by Michener standards. It takes place in 1946. Mark Miller is sent on a diplomatic mission to find Ellen Jaspar, an American woman who married an Afghan man and then disappeared. Miller's travels take him to the remotest reaches of Afghanistan's deserts and mountains. He suffers extremes of heat (130 degrees!!) and cold. He witnesses appalling barbarity but also finds great warmth and hospitality, and just barely begins to comprehend the complexity of the Afghan mind and culture.

Plot and character development are somewhat sacrificed early in the book in the interest of educating the reader. I thought it was a more than fair trade-off for what I got to learn about Afghan culture, history, and terrain. Deeper into the story Michener drops out of teacher mode and lets the story flow without interruption, so I'd say that's the more exciting portion of the book. But it was ALL fascinating to me.


1)If you make a camel mad at you, you have to remove all of your clothes and leave them in a pile so the camel can "fight your clothes." The camel will stomp on them, gum them, and toss them around as a substitute for fighting with you, and then she will forgive you and become cooperative again.

2)Should you ever doubt Michener's sense of humor, here's my one big laugh from the book:
"I wondered how a man ever got an English girl into bed. What did they do with her hockey stick?"
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Reading Progress

06/03/2010 page 145
45.31% "Fascinating stuff! Thanks, Julie. I'm glad I finally decided to tackle this one." 2 comments

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by NancyL (new)

NancyL Luckey I wasn't aware of this book. I love Michener; so I'll have to get this one right away. Great review. Thanks!

message 2: by Jill (new)

Jill Oh, this brings back memories! My dad -- who taught me my love of reading -- was a huge Michener fan. The very first "adult" book I read was Hawaii...!

Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" Nancy, I somehow missed it too, until a couple of years ago when Julie added it to her shelves. (And I finally got around to it almost two years later.) :0 Michener wrote so many that it's hard to catch them all.

Jill, that's quite an ambitious first adult book! I didn't read Hawaii until I was about 30. :)

One thing I meant to put in my review is that it's a good idea to try and get a version with a map of Afghanistan inside the front cover. I found it a great enhancement to my reading as the main character moves around quite a lot.

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

I read this in 2005 and had forgotten it so thanks for this good review which reminds me of so much.

Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" Hi Alice! Thanks for stopping by. Your comment made me come back and look at my review. I'm glad I added the fun stuff at the bottom. I'd forgotten about that.

message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

I had forgotten it too so I was so glad you added it. Camels seem to be strange creatures.

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