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4.14  ·  Rating Details ·  16,655 Ratings  ·  649 Reviews
Once again James A. Michener brings history to life with this 400-year saga of America's great bay and its Eastern Shore. Following Edmund Steed and his remarkable family, who parallel the settling and forming of the nation, CHESAPEAKE sweeps readers from the unspoiled world of the Native Americans to the voyages of Captain John Smith, the Revolutionary War, and right up t ...more
Paperback, 880 pages
Published March 26th 2004 by Random House USA Inc (first published 1978)
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Jayne I just finished reading Chesapeake and the stories I believe you are referring to - when the area was introduced to Laborador Retrievers is in the…moreI just finished reading Chesapeake and the stories I believe you are referring to - when the area was introduced to Laborador Retrievers is in the chapter titled "The Watermen"
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Community Reviews

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Oct 28, 2007 T.S. rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: history buffs and Marylanders
A friend of mine, upon moving to Baltimore, asked why the area was so eff'd up. A friend told her she should read this book. She's moved on to Denver, but we had a recent conversation about Baltimore, which is where I still reside. I posed the same question, and she gave me the answer that had been given to hear, "You should read "Chesapeake.""

Michener, I'm told by this friend, is a famed histo-geographical fictionalist, which is to say he writes stories that span centuries in a way in which a
Alison Smith
Apr 27, 2007 Alison Smith added it
Recommends it for: patient readers in the Delmarva region
Don't be afraid of Michener! I've heard the rule is that you can put the book down if you're not finished in 6 months ha! I think I am 2 months in. Drink tea and read little by little. Chesapeake follows a bunch of families living on the Choptank River on Maryland's Eastern shore from before pre-colonial times through....well, I'm still reading. About halfway through, I was tickled to read about a GOOSE FAMILY hahaha. HONK!
Feb 14, 2012 Mat rated it it was amazing
What is Michener's best book? Now that's a tough question. It's like asking 'what was Shakespeare's masterpiece?' or even 'what's your favourite Baskin & Robbins flavour ice-cream'? To me, based on the books I have read so far, it is a toss-up between Alaska, Hawaii and this marvellous page-turner, Chesapeake.
I'll admit I really had doubts that a story which was limited to the history and area surrounding Chesapeake Bay would hold me for the 700 + pages in which Michener likes to let his na
Sep 14, 2008 Katie rated it it was amazing
There is no better way to make history digestible than by telling the story through fictional characters...dynasties, really. This was really a beautiful and telling account of American history, from the days of Native Americans to the tragedy of Watergate. The scope of the story is magnificent - from exploration, to taming the land, to revolutions, to pirates, to civil rights. One of the things that struck me was how dramatic of a change occurred between about 1890 to 1930. I was sort of disapp ...more
Jan 31, 2014 Betty rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes a good story
This has to be one of the best books I have ever read. It has a strong storyline, it is gripping and yet it has at times a gentleness about it. I have read this book twice, and do not rule out a third time....a rare thing for me. I loved this.
Jul 18, 2011 Benny rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It is my favorite by Michener. I read it the first time on a trip to the Eastern Shore of Virginia. If you ever visit this region, take this book along. It will make your trip a magical, spiritual experience. I read it again several years ago, and it brought back all those pleasant memories including tastes, sounds, sights, and smells. I could go for a soft-shell crab sandwich just thinking about it!
James Michener has a remarkable talent for introducing a setting and taking his readers on a journey, that will make one understand the area through it's history and it's people. In Chesapeake, he forms a novel around that area in Maryland that borders the Choptank River, a tributary of Chesapeake Bay.

Michener begins with the natives just prior to settlement by colonial English. Through native (and later colonial) eyes, the reader gets a good feel for the bounty available in this area. He descri
Just arrived from USA through BM.

The cover of this edition, provided by Wikipedia, is the following:

This book covers the history of the North American east, mainly Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where the Choptank River flows into the Chesapeake.

By covering the historical period from 1583 to 1978, the author describes many historical facts and plenty of main characters, showing how the founders of 4 families will dominate the main plot: the Steeds, the Paxmores, the Caters and the Turlocks. Some str
Apr 12, 2010 LemonLinda rated it it was amazing
What a great overview of life in the Chesapeake and Eastern Shore of Maryland from pre-colonization forward told first through the eyes of the Native Americans and then through the many generations of Steeds, the planters of Devon Island, Paxmores, the intellectual Quakers living on Peace Cliff as well as the Turlocks who intermixed with the natives and were most comfortable living and at times barely surviving in the marshes, the Caters who were direct descendants of the African, Cudjo, and the ...more
Oct 20, 2013 Greg rated it liked it
Shelves: historical
Chesapeake is the rambling story of a portion of the Chesapeake Bay area from the time just before Europeans arrived until the 1970's. While the story began well, eventually it really did begin to ramble but also it skipped major moments in history (the Civil War is mentioned as an afterthought and the Civil Rights movement is mentioned as a peripheral occurrence). These lapses in historical moments are an interesting choice, considering the nearly insignificant details that are included. At one ...more
Apr 03, 2017 Linda marked it as to-read
1.99 on 04/03/17
This will be my first by James A. Michener
Kristie Helms
Aug 02, 2015 Kristie Helms rated it it was amazing
For the past 10 years, my wife and I have vacationed on the James River -- nearly across the river from Jamestown VA. It's an amazing vacation -- eating crabs, watching sunsets and the fury of storms blowing down the James River.

We usually arrive from Boston by driving down the Eastern Shore or DelMarVa peninsula. It always seems so isolated to me. A region out of time and just barely connected to the mainland of the US. This book, which I begun during what will in all likelihood be our last tr
Jul 25, 2011 Manu rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review
From 1583 to 1978 the saga moves, tracking the lives of individuals, their families, the society they live in, and most importantly the place where all of this happens. Chesapeake is as much about a way of life, as it is about the place and its people.

The book is typical Michener, and uses individual stories across generations to show the way a place and its society has evolved. Even as each generation's story is read, it is difficult to realise the passage of time, since sometimes the changes
Aug 15, 2009 Aletvin rated it liked it
I almost put this down after 200 pages because it's so ferociously non-literary, but I'm glad I slogged through. Michener takes a god's eye view of the region, beginning with John Smith and the Indians, and unrolls the history through the generations of 4 families--plantation owners, Quakers, low-life "watermen", and African American. There are cameo appearances from George Washington and other worthies, incursions by pirates, chapters on boat building--even a crab cake recipe, and a little dram ...more
Doris A.
Feb 04, 2012 Doris A. rated it really liked it
In a way, if you've read one Michener, you've read them all. But not because, after all, just because you know the history of mankind in Spain (or Hawaii or Poland) doesn't mean you know it for ... the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I started this novel my first week in DC. It was a thousand pages long. It became a roadblock between me and the next book ("I will not open another book until I finish this!") and I let it block me for over a year (I was busy!). All that said, I'm glad to have read it. ...more
Sep 05, 2008 Ron rated it liked it
Read this when I moved to the Chesapeake bordering community of Poquoson, Va. Was an excellent introduction to the area and culture. Ran into Bull Islanders who could have been the prototypes used to develop some of the cast.
Aug 04, 2015 Darlene rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was loving this up until just prior to the Civil War when it started to go downhill for me. Too much politics and social commentary. Everything before that though was fabulous.
Mr. Gottshalk
Apr 26, 2017 Mr. Gottshalk rated it liked it
At 1,001 pages, this is the longest book I have ever read! I had had my eye on it for some time, and a recent trip to the Chesapeake sparked my interest and I brought it along. Two weeks later, I finished his behemoth. And that's my biggest complaint. The book is simply too long. Broken up into 14 "Voyages", the book could have been chunked into shorter novels, each focusing on a time period. The reason why this book earned a third star, in my view, is because of the tireless effort and research ...more
Mar 04, 2017 Joan rated it really liked it
Quite an undertaking to write such a book. I never thought I would finish it. Especially liked the chapter Rosalind's revenge.
John Mattox, II
Apr 01, 2011 John Mattox, II rated it really liked it
This novel is a sweeping saga that tracks three families of differing socials classes from the day they arrive on the Delmarva (eastern shore of Maryland) to the late 1970s. It would be interesting to read Michener's view on the last 30 years. Michnener is sparse on dialog and fond of using words that even the college prep courses haven't discovered. If you decide to take this journey, and it is a long one (800+ pages), don't expect high drama and page-turning action and suspense. Prepare yourse ...more
Sep 08, 2013 Kurt rated it it was amazing
This is not the first book I have read by this author. I am always impressed, if not amazed, by his depth of knowledge concerning the topography, people, and in-depth history of the areas about which he writes. This book was no exception. The book unfolds in voyages, fourteen in all, and takes us across an amazing four centuries. It begins with the native tribes living in the Choptank area of the country in the 16th century, and moves across time as colonists embark from Europe. Amazingly, he tr ...more
Interesting that Goodreads does not offer me the option of rating this book. Wonder what that is about? Anyway, this book is nearly 1,100 pages long, so don't bother to read my review, because you are never going to read this book (unless of course you live on the Chesapeake Bay, in which case you have probably already read it, and therefore have even less reason to read my review). I can hardly believe I read it myself, but I did, apparently out of sheer stubbornness.

When I was a youngster, pro
Jan 29, 2009 Poiema rated it really liked it
In his fictional history of Chesapeake Bay, James Michener takes you to the top of a large building and lets you watch the pageant of centuries pass like a parade beneath your gaze. Though you can see the details of individuals as they pass, your perspective predisposes you to see the broad sweep of centuries. It is an amazing amalgam of crooks and colonels, priests and pirates, fishermen and floozies, merchants and mechanics with the natural history of Chesapeake Bay providing the backdrop for ...more
Lola peterson
Aug 11, 2011 Lola peterson rated it liked it
Hey! I'm reading only later voyages in this book for school, if anyone can catch me up by replying to these questions, I would reallly appreciate it... thanks!
xoxo lola

Voyage 2: 1608 and The Island
3. What, apparently, is the main motivation for the creation of the Church of England? How is it
different from the Catholic Church?
4. What impact does the Catholic / Protestant rivalry have on the colonies in the Chesapeake?
5. How does Devon Steed’s story illustrate both the hardships of life in the co
Kate Kelly
Jan 02, 2015 Kate Kelly rated it really liked it
My second Michener didn't disappoint. His books, though long, aren't hard to read and the interwoven plots and stories keep things interesting. I liked the in depth look at the 17th, 18th, and first half of the 19th centuries, but then it seemed like Michener felt like he needed to get a move on and he sped through the rest. The lack of coverage of the Civil War itself as well as the bizarre inclusion of the Watergate scandal were both puzzlers. I enjoyed the format, with the concept of "Voyages ...more
Blair Blanks
Jun 17, 2016 Blair Blanks rated it it was amazing
First, it's long. Very long. When I first started reading it, I wasn't sure it was going to hold my attention for 1,000 pages.
But I was wrong. Very wrong!
This is quite possibly one of the best books I've ever read. It was of particular interest to me because I live in Baltimore and actually read much of this book while sailing on the Chesapeake bay.
But for all readers, especially those interested in historical fiction, this offers an amazing, sweeping panoramic view of history told through a h
Alan Blood
Dec 15, 2011 Alan Blood rated it it was amazing
I read 'Chesapeake' some thirty years ago - yet the vivid memories and impact of it are still with me today so that I intend to reread it again if time ever permits ! I mention the time factor because it sits in that genre of massive 'blockbusters'(alongside 'War And Peace') - the size of a brick and unputdownable !

In this masterpiece, James A. Michener encapsulates almost the entire history of America within the microcosm of the Chesapeake Bay area, with its ancient abundance of fish, herons an
Apr 12, 2010 William rated it liked it
So, yours truly managed to pick up a first edition of this book for a few shekels recently.

I found it to be very typical of Michener.

His detractors will try to tell you that his formulaic writing style and lack of character development made the late author nothing short of a hack.

Indeed, I found this best-seller from 1978 to be very much like the other two Michener novels I've read.

And, as he covers nearly four centuries over 865 pages, the folks who populate his narrative are painted in very br
Si les chemins que prend le destin d'André ne sont pas ceux qu'on pourrait lui souhaiter, il nous accompagne, rue après champs, situations précaires après jolis moments de liesse vers un monde d'hier au franc parlé qu'il ne me semble pas ridicule d'imaginer être de nouveau tangible dans notre actualité... la faim justifie les moyens dit-on... l'espoir justifie peut-être les actes !
Un livre à lire et à confronter avec les souvenirs qu'auront pu évoquer un grand oncle grincheux, une grand-mère éco
This is my first Michener novel and I really enjoyed it. It wasn't a quick read due to its size but the stories within this novel were informative and interesting! Michener does an amazing job of including all the detail you could ever want without weighing it down and making it boring. I love the Chesapeake and spent almost every summer of my entire life on the Bay so this novel was a true home run for me. The only reason it's 4 stars is that the last couple of parts of the novel weren't nearly ...more
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Hard cover, paperback or Kindle edition? 1 5 Aug 02, 2016 07:24AM  
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Historical Fictio...: Chesapeake - James Michener 66 88 Oct 09, 2013 06:34AM  
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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
More about James A. Michener...

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“From the earliest days of the nation anyone with an intelligence equal to that of sparrows had realized that the peninsula ought logically to be united as one state, but historical accident had decreed that one portion be assigned to Maryland, whose citizens despised the Eastern Shore and considered it a backwater; one portion to the so-called state of Delaware, which never could find any reasonable justification for its existence; and the final portion to Virginia, which allowed its extreme southern fragment of the Eastern Shore to become the most pitiful orphan in America.” 3 likes
“A ship, like a human being, moves best when it is slightly athwart the wind, when it has to keep its sails tight and attend its course. Ships, like men, do poorly when the wind is directly behind, pushing them sloppily on their way so that no care is required in steering or in the management of sails; the wind seems favorable, for it blows in the direction one is heading, but actually it is destructive because it induces a relaxation in tension and skill. What is needed is a wind slightly opposed to the ship, for then tension can be maintained, and juices can flow and ideas can germinate, for ships, like men, respond to challenge.” 3 likes
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