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3.72  ·  Rating details ·  2,805 ratings  ·  210 reviews
Here, in the fresh, vivid prose that is James Michener's trademark, is the real Spain as he experiences it. He not only reveals the celebrated Spain of bullfights and warror kings, painters and processions, cathedrals and olive orchards; he also shares the intimate, often hidden Spain he has come to know, where toiling peasants and their honest food, the salt of the shores ...more
Paperback, 960 pages
Published October 12th 1984 by Fawcett Crest Books (first published 1968)
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Average rating 3.72  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,805 ratings  ·  210 reviews

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Jan 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I did a second (different) review of this book a while ago - - with lots of pictures. It wasn't as well liked as this one I did originally. So I thought I'd resubmit this one in case some readers might find it useful. The book is still in print, and though it must be dated to some extent, I have a GR friend who moved to Spain in the last year, and has said he has found it useful to have as a suggestion for travels and things to see.

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Jan 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Travellers in Spain; interest in Spain
Spain was a theocracy, and I had lived in Israel and Pakistan, which were also theocracies, and the problems of such governments tend to be the same, whether the theocracy is Jewish, Muslim, or Catholic.

Father Jesus Precedo Lafuente. [chapter: Santiago de Compostela]

I've written a prior review in which I give more of an overview of the book, here:

My second reading of this book, begun last year, is being terminated today (at least for the foreseeable futur
Roy Lotz
In a sense no visitor can ever be adequately prepared to judge a foreign city, let alone an entire nation; the best he can do is to observe with sympathy.

Travel writing is like love poetry. All travelers and lovers are convinced that their experiences are unique, and therefore worth writing about; while in reality most travel stories and love poems express nearly the same basic sentiment, over and over, with only minor variations. Both genres are easy to write and hard to read, which is why
Jill Mackin
Aug 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
First literary travel book I ever read. Michener was such a good travel writer. I loved Iberia.
Rex Fuller
May 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Michener is, of course, a giant. Bridges at Toko-Ri was one of the first books I ever read. Somehow, I only read a few of his after that, Tales of the South Pacific, Chesapeake, and Texas. So, I’m no expert. But I can say this book taught me more about Spain than I learned visiting it or from a bunch of years of Spanish. Here is some of what Michener shows us:

The Spanish system of surnames. Extremadura, poor, hard-scrabble region bordering Portugal, where Balboa, de Soto, Cortez, and Pizarro all
Bob Newman
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: iberia, travel
Trained Brain Explains Spain without Strain

I'd never been to Spain, but after reading Michener's mammoth work on the country, I wished I had gone long ago. I have this sneaking feeling that the place has changed out of all recognition since he published this 795 page tome in 1968. Perhaps it has become more like the rest of Europe or even more like the rest of the world than it was during the latter part of Franco's long rule. Is it still "Spanish", whatever that may mean ? Maybe, but not the sa
Chad Fairey
Dec 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011-booklist
I decided to dive into this over the holidays, as part of an ensuing and voracious quest to soak up as many dimensions of Spanish culture as possible. I've long been a very appreciative fan of Michener's historical epics - this tome is no Chesepeake, Hawaii or The Source, however, all of which offer exhaustive and near encyclopedic treatments of their respective subjects. This autobiographical work, drawing on Michener's personal experiences in the Iberian peninsula between the 1930s and 1960s, ...more
May 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: spain, audiobooks
James Michener seems to have hated editing. Any hint of it. Whatever comes to his mind, goes, which is why this book can boast the length of "War and Peace". A picnic Michener had with a random Spaniard, one afternoon in Madrid, a description of a dish and a sudden recipe (one in the entire book), fully played-out fantasy conversation with a long-dead Spaniard, the plot of a matador film retold in the most minuscule detail. It's all good and it all makes it to the book.

While sometimes tedious (I
David Canford
Apr 10, 2022 rated it really liked it
This is an account of Spain and what it meant to be Spanish as seen through the eye of James Michener from visits he made during the 1930s to 1960s. Like Jan Morris in her account of a similar time period in 'Spain’, his views seem outdated now but it is interesting to read of a Spain that no longer exists. He had a great love for the country which comes across in his writing. In addition to observations on cities visited, there is much about Spanish history, particularly its kings and queens, a ...more
May 26, 2014 added it
Shelves: started
He was probably in his 60s when he wrote most of this, travelling with his wife, but he writes a bit like a little boy, discovering rules and lists like an effervescent, naive American, or German-style logician. He says writing is hard for him, but he manages to write these tremendously long and simplistic books, possibly because he is so sequential and seldom cross-references or reduces facts. So yes, it is fascinating to learn second-hand that the famous cave paintings of bulls never depict a ...more
May 09, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spain, travel
This is a fascinating book. Most definitely a product of the times (late 1960's) and not at all impartial (though occasionally pretending to be), Iberia is a deep reflection on Spain from an outsider who loves the country. Sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, sometimes borderline offensive - it's still enjoyable and a great jumping off point for your own research into different aspects of Spain and Spanish life. It's also really really really long, but I thought it was a relatively quick read - ...more
May 27, 2020 rated it liked it
I waded thru half the book and learned enough to understand the Spanish in his books Mexico and Texas. I could handle only so much art, music and poetry...the pics are fabulous. This book finished off the books of James Michener.
Mar 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book very much, even though I'm not normally a fan of this author. Typically long-winded, and very anecdotal compared to his other works. I think that this was a more personal book, with stories of what he saw and learned from his encounters, made me like it more.

It reads like a travelogue, and, since I want to go to Spain, I enjoyed hearing about it. In fact, that's how I "read" this: I listened to the unabridged audio in my car. It was an interesting experience in driving throug
Aug 24, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am a die-hard Michener fan. I've read so many of his incredible sagas, and I re-read Hawaii about once a year, because it's one of my top ten books EVER. So being as I live in Spain, I thought this book would be more of the same Michener I love.

But it's not. It's a non-fiction memoir of his Spanish travels. From the 60's, so nothing is relevant at all anymore. It really doesn't stand the test of time.

So I slogged my way through this, reading a chapter every now and then.

I like that he reall
Kevin Xu
I thought this book all would be was Michener's travel through Spain, but no its more than half about the history, which is really boring to me, especially the way it was written into his travel by selection, so I could not get into the book. But I should have expected the history mixed in with his travel, since in all his fictional books about different locations it is basically a history of the location from the beginning of time on how the land was created to the present time. ...more
Jul 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I embarked upon this lengthy read in anticipation of a forthcoming trip to Spain, for which I must say this book has prepared me in much grander fashion than I ever expected. Like Michener, I hope to similarly immerse myself deeply into the religious history of Catholic Spain; and will bear a much deeper appreciation of its art, architecture, religion, people and culture as a result of this reading.

Although this is a dated work, written during the time of Franco, it nevertheless pro
Arnold Baruch
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
There, I've finally read my first Michener book, if at an advanced age. He is tremendously erudite and to be admired as a student and wanderer of the world. Who would not trade their life for his?

Iberia was a good choice for me, as it seems to give insights into the man. About 700 pages in and 200 to go, I thought, well, this man is Catholic, given his deeply sympathetic descriptions of Spanish religious sentiments. That's when he discloses he's a Quaker! But his Christian leanings are clear. T
Howard Brazee
Michener spent lots of time in Spain (and a bit in Portugal). This book has his experiences visiting it, and a lot of history. Franco was still in power when this book was written in the mid 1960s.

While he was in love with its history, I was appalled, as I am about much world history. Kings and Bishops did a lot of evil for their own reasons.

I keep wondering while reading this book how much Spain has changed since then. My impression is that he thought a lot was unchanging, I suspect he would be
Heather Pace
Feb 20, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
It’s bittersweet that my four years with this book have come to an end. I’m so glad I got to know Michener, and happy we have a mutual appreciation for Rioja.

“I have the certificate still, proving me to be the only Quaker in history obligated to watch over chickens used in the ceremonies of a Catholic church.”
Jordan Bethea
Disclosure: I only read about 320 pages of this before stopping. This is about a third of the book.

The core of this book is a travelog of the author's multiple trips through spain. It uses this as springboards for a LOT of digressions on various other things, the history of different regions, people the author talked to, the wildlife and art he sees. In theory it can be an interesting way of taking surface level looks at the country and viewing them more deeply. And at its best, this book achiev
Jul 21, 2022 rated it liked it
I read this book because I adore Spain and, well, because it was given to me as a Christmas gift. I didn't actually know this book existed before December 25th of 2020. Having at long last crossed the finish line of Michener's supermarathon through Iberian time and terrain, and as I lie in a twisted heap of mental cramps, I don't have energy to say a whole lot more than, "well, I did it."

There were probably more parts in this book that shone than I can now remember (I have been laboring through
May 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
It's one of James Michener's well-researched, well-written, and well distributed works. I would like to read more of his books -- they are always a pleasure. This one helped spark my eventual love affair with the Iberian Peninsula, which has been a bit more on the sour side with the pathetic exchange rate lately. It was nice in the '90s, though.

John Bowen
Oct 19, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up-on
This is the only Michener book I've ever read that I didn't like. I thought I'd like it because I love Spain, but I didn't and gave up on it half way through. There was no real story. It's more like a travel log of all his travels in Spain. It's the only book I ever made the decision not to finish. ...more
Ronald Wilcox
Mar 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, travelogue
Michener has always been one of my favorite fiction writers. This time, written in the late 1960's, he writes of his travels throughout the different regions of Spain in the 1930's through the 1960's. Excellent travelogue which blends his personal experiences and the history of each town, vividly portrayed. Just overall an excellent read - worth the time the 939 pages takes to get through! ...more
Jan 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
fascinating saga... the world of Spain as it was 50 years ago. The history of the second half of the 20th century is beyond comprehension... Michener did an awesome job of presenting it in vivid narrative.
Jan 31, 2016 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like it, but it was tough. alternated between dull and fascinating vignettes. Not the usual michner story. Not sure why I finished it but I did, and now on to something else in the growing bedside pile.
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When one cannot travel, one should read Michener. ¡Viva España!
Joe Holman
Sep 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, adult
I wish I had read this book before going to Spain. Now I need to go back again and see how some parts have changed since he wrote about them in the mid-1960s.
Sam Rennick
Jun 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Michener writes historical fiction, and his books are long. If you like historical fiction and long books, you should try him. I can't get through his books. "Hawaii" held me until the missionaries arrive and spoil paradise. Other books, like "Space" and "The Source," I haven't even opened. I'm pretty sure I know what I'd find. "Iberia" is altogether different. It's about actual people. Each chapter is about a different place in Spain. You can read the ones you want, skip the ones that don't int ...more
Mark Kaplan
Mar 30, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How does a man pack everything he loves about a country into a collection of experiences that is more than anecdotes and interviews, more than history and cultural exploration, more than profiles of men, villages, and landscapes? If one imagines a thick stew that has simmered without pause for centuries, one might glean an insight into the wealth of its ingredients, the interplay of its flavors, and the substances that its history has engraved upon its taste. I was unprepared for this non-fictio ...more
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Please recommend books set in Spain/Portugal 7 29 Feb 20, 2013 08:22AM  

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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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