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Caravans

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  7,833 ratings  ·  599 reviews
In this romantic adventure of wild Afghanistan, master storyteller James Michener mixes the allure of the past with the dangers of today. After an impetuous American girl, Ellen Jasper, marries a young Afghan engineer, her parents hear no word from her. Although she wants freedom to do as she wishes, not even she is sure what that means. In the meantime, she is as good as ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 9th 2003 by Dial Press Trade Paperback (first published 1963)
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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 ·  7,833 ratings  ·  599 reviews


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Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)
Jul 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jeanette (Ms. Feisty) by: Julie
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 Jasp
...more
Jenna
Apr 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is a great book and gives you a feel for Afghanistan. It was written in the 60s about the 40s. And if you replace Taliban for Mullahs and deemphasize the Russian's it could have been written today. Afghanistan truly is a unique place and the book captures that well. For example, early in the book it talks about how the German's came into Afghanistan and built all of these amazing bridges but after a season or two they were destroyed. But the simple Afghan bridges lasted years and years. A lon ...more
W
Nov 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, afghanistan
Relatively short for a Michener book,this is about 1940s Afghanistan,and was written in the 1960s.Afghanistan wouldn't have been much in the news then,few people in the US would have heard of it.

But Michener liked to write about places off the beaten track.It is another matter,that to me,his books seemed to go on forever,and lacked pace.

Michener had travelled through Afghanistan,and his description of the land and the people is authentic.The story itself is rather dull and meandering.

However,the
...more
Blaine DeSantis
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another marvelous book by Michener. This time we go back in time to one of his earliest works and take a close look at the country of Afghanistan. I had only wished the US State and Defense Departments had read this work before we decided sent troops over there. Michener writes this book in 1963 and sets it in 1946. He does not use his standard plot devices, instead here he begins with an American diplomat stationed in Afghanistan and he is being sent on a mission to find a young girl from Penns ...more
Ron
Nov 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Despite--perhaps because of--its age, Michner's view of the then-current affairs and potential futures for Afghanistan make fascinating reading now. Forty-five years ago he recognized the potential of fundamentalist Moslem control of the land, but he voted for the secularists. He was wrong, but it didn't have to be that way.

(I never saw the motion picture based on Michner's book and encourage a reader to seek the novel rather than the movie.)

For a modern alternative ending to Afghanistan's lates
...more
Judy

This is the first book I read for my 1963 reading list. It was #4 on the bestseller list for that year. At under 500 pages it is short for a Michener book.

The location is Afghanistan. The year is 1946. I would bet that the country was not much in the news in the year after WWII ended though it was a time of anxiety about the USSR and the spread of communism. In the story however, the anxiety at the US Embassy in Kabul is over an American young woman who had married an Afghan man she met in coll
...more
Julie
Jun 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a book! Best one I have read in awhile. Extremely thought provoking and enlightening even though it was written quite awhile ago and then about an era even before that. I would have LOVED to have had someone read this book at the same time and we could discuss it. By far the best book I have read that would be awesome for a book club.
Corey Woodcock
Jan 30, 2021 rated it really liked it
4/5-This was the most unexpectedly good read I've had in awhile. I don't know what I was expecting, but it far surpassed it.

The basic premise of this is only somewhat intriguing-a snotty American girl has married an Afghan man, run off with him to Afghanistan, and her parents haven't heard from her since. Some schmuck from the embassy is sent to find her-only to become far more cultured than he ever expected, and finding much more. I expected a good adventure, but what I didn't expect was to le
...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
I bought this book after loving Michener's Hawaii, hoping for a similarly wonderful reading experience. I was disappointed. The best I can say is that I learned some things--the book takes you around Afghanistan in the 1940s, introducing a variety of places and cultures and including pertinent historical information--and that's why it gets 2 stars despite being otherwise awful.

This book suffers from the twin problems of an uninspired, meandering plot and a narrator who is one of the most unlike
...more
Brendan
Jul 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
At just 336 pages, Caravans is a tight, talky, and wonderfully insightful piece of work set entirely in Afghanistan. The novel centers on Mark Miller, a young American diplomat stationed in 1946 Kabul, who is charged to find Ellen, a woman who married an American-educated Afghan named Nazrullah and then disappeared. He eventually finds her among a group of nomads. Miller’s traveling companion, meanwhile, is Dr. Otto Stiglitz, a Nazi war criminal.

More than forty years after the publication of Car
...more
Chrisl
Sep 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, asia, 1960s
Have read, or at least started, most if not all Michener books. Looking back over the decades, Caravans comes to mind most often. Book's focus not fragmented.
Recently read this one again. Surprisingly applicable to our contemporary world. If more prone to using that 5th star, I'd do so after the reread.
...more
Ron Wroblewski
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: james-michener
Got off to a slow start but once Miller started on his search for Ellen it really picked up, and I was anticipating what would happen next. Learned a lot about Afghanistan and it's peoples in the 1940s.
Would have loved to see if Miller and Mira eventually got together - they were a good pair.
...more
Ebookwormy1
Mar 29, 2008 rated it liked it
Clocking in at just under 340 pages, Caravans lacks both the heft and span typical of the generational saga for which Michener is known. This is not the best of Michener and it’s not my favorite, but I’m glad I read it after all these years.

What makes this book especially intriguing is its publication in the year 1963, and setting in the post-World War II Afghanistan of the late 1940s. The main character of the work is the land itself: Afghanistan. Beautiful and complex, Michener presents us wit
...more
Jeff Dickison
Jul 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent, if fictional, story of Afghanistan in 1946. I served in the Air Force in Turkey in the 60's and it did not appear that much had changed in the middle east from '46 to '66. All of the peoples involved had the ring of truth to them, except for one, Ellen. That kept the book from being a 5-star novel. Even Michener, as the author, could not make her behavior comprehensible. Recommended. ...more
David (דוד)
4.75 stars

This time Michener creates a story set in the Kingdom of Afghanistan in 1946. This was a lovely read, and a short one relatively to his fat books. A single story here, unlike in his most other books. Michener has done a great job of portrayal of social and economic life in Afghanistan, along with integrating its history, culture, and most essentially the terrain. LoVeLy!!

“Afghanistan, one of the most inconspicuous nations on earth. In 1946 it was just emerging from the bronze age, a
...more
Julie
Jul 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
This novel is now 45 years old and in my mind, remains as topical, fascinating and revelatory as when it was first published. Michener spins a great story against the backdrop of tribal politics & Western prejudice that prevail today. It shows Afghanistan to be an amazingly complex culture both protected and exploited by a cruel terrain. It deepened my fascination with its many nations, tribes and incredible beauty. Someday, someday I'll get there...

Like Nevil Shute, Michener can speak through a
...more
Paul Cornelius
For some reason, I started reading Caravans thinking it was about Iran. It's not. Afghanistan is the setting. And I suppose some reading it think Michener was dead on correct about his speculation, in 1963, on the country's future. He is certainly accurate about the forces at play within the country and its aversion to outsiders of any stripe. But Michener, being the Cold War Democratic liberal that he was, just cannot help but see that modernization is on the horizon in both Afghanistan and Ira ...more
Sean
Jul 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
Definitely one of the lesser James Michener novels. An American embassy worker in Kabul, 1946 goes searching for a missing American girl who has run off with a Afghani. The book is vaguely interesting for its descriptions of an Afghanistan mostly untouched by Western influences, but little else. You're not going to remember any of the characters. There is exactly one gripping scene, when the protagonist witnesses a adulterous woman stoned to death by a mob in Kandahar. Also, the book has a fairl ...more
Jeremy Mathiesen
Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Greetings, adventure seekers, from the treacherous frozen north,

It's your weary, wrestling wordsmith here with a great recommendation for you.

I recently read James Michener's Caravans, published in 1963. I'm a big fan of historical fiction. I always see so many similarities between the historical fiction and the fantasy I read.

In my mind, I always lump R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones in with Ken Follet's Pillars of the Earth Series. Both have nobles battling for power, characters with swaying mor
...more
Hock Tjoa
Jan 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Published in 1963 and set in 1946-7 (before the Partition of India), this book reminds us what a great investigator and thoughtful writer Michener was. The story itself is outmoded and Michener does not show great insight into the psychology of his characters. But one wonders if anyone in "exceptional" America read it when Charlie Wilson went to arm the Taliban against the Soviet supported regime, when soldiers were sent after 9/11 only to remain there for a dozen years. The author described Kab ...more
Don Fannin
Jun 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I first read this book in college 65 to 69. And I am rereading it now. I almost never read a book. But as the US got involved in Afghanistan it framed the way I thought about the country. As with all of Michener's good novels this is a story, a travelogue, social and political commentary, and history. To be honest the story is weak. It is good enough to keep you reading but not enthralling by any means. The travelogue is magnificent. Word pictures of a dusty dirty part of the world, primitive wh ...more
Naeem
Aug 05, 2007 rated it liked it
In the summer of 1973, I was caught in an apartment in the middle of Bangkok. With 100 degrees and 95% humidity 24 hours a day and my burning desire to exit the stage of my family life, I had only one release -- readying. I think I read half a dozen of Michener's books. Including this one on Afghanistan.

The book is, of course, outdated. It was published in 1962. But there is still a reason to read it. I think it reads well paired with Jason Elliot's An Unexpected Light -- the best travel book I
...more
Kristopher Dukes
"One of the world's great cauldrons"

I had expected "Caravans" to read like the only other Michener book I've read, "Hawaii": a sweeping, multi-generational narrative holding together an entertaining history of the kingdom(s) turned state.

Instead, I lived a year of a young American man's life as he comes of age in post-WWII Afghanistan.

I can't remember the last time I wanted climb inside a novel. The prose is fluid and clean and perfect. The exotic scenes are richly described, the characters lay
...more
Elliot
Jul 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book, despite its rather poor writing and characters that I really couldn't like. That might seem odd, but it was interesting to read about Afghanistan (even if fictionalized) in the late 40s from a writer in the early 60s. Michener knew an enormous amount about Afghanistan from many trips here before he wrote the book, and it really shows in his descriptions. ...more
Mary Reilly
Jun 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club
Written in the early 60’s and probably wouldn’t have read it except for book club but the story totally captivated me. Michener is a great writer and this book at a little over 300 pages is way more manageable than his super long books. Even though so much has happened in Afghanistan since the story’s setting and the book was written, it’s amazing how much remains the same.
Beverly Kent
When I read all the other Michner books, I don't know how I missed this one. I have a vague memory that it was made into a movie (which wasn't very good), but the story has great appeal. A different time and surely a different place, but the plot is believable and a good summer read. ...more
Noel
Jan 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I've read this book twice and both times absolutely loved it. This is a well used mass media paperback. ...more
Adrienne
Sep 01, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
This book was fine - I enjoyed the descriptions of the environment and some aspects of the culture (food, etc) but most of the protagonists were unlikable.
Katherine Gypson
Apr 19, 2013 rated it liked it
Caravans, James Michener's 1963 novel about the then-largely unknown country of Afghanistan, is a historical novel in more ways than one. Written sixteen years before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that would spark three decades of war, Caravans takes the reader even farther back than Michener's own time to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul in the days just after the end of World War II.

Part of what makes this novel so fascinating is that the reader knows more about Afghan history than Michener did
...more
Christine Lynch
Nov 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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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
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“We are never prepared for what we expect.” 78 likes
“Afghanistan, one of the most inconspicuous nations on earth. In 1946 it was just emerging from the bronze age, a land incredibly old, incredibly tied to an ancient past. At the embassy we used to say, “Kabul today shows what Palestine was like at the time of Jesus.” 4 likes
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