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The Drifters

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  7,616 ratings  ·  466 reviews
In his triumphant best seller, James Michener unfolds a powerful and poignant drama of six young runaways adrift in a world they have created out of dreams, drugs, and dedication to pleasure. With the sure touch of a master, Michener pulls us into the dark center of their private world, whether it's in Spain, Marrakech, or Mozambique, and exposes the naked nerve ends with ...more
Paperback, 768 pages
Published October 12th 1986 by Fawcett Books (first published 1971)
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Kerry Stringari Yes, It was this book. Character is Mr Harvey Holt, introduced in chapter The Tech Rep. He is friend of Mr. FAirbanks.
He posts the Longitiude & Latit…more
Yes, It was this book. Character is Mr Harvey Holt, introduced in chapter The Tech Rep. He is friend of Mr. FAirbanks.
He posts the Longitiude & Latitiude on door of each place he stays. Pg 467 in my book -Pamplona Chapter he posts:

You are now in

Pamplona , Spain
42 * 48' North 1* 37' West

If you fly along this latitude in an easterly direction, you will look down on Orvieto, Sofia, Tashkent, Sapporo, Milwaukee, Detroit, Santiago de Compostela, Vitoria, Pamplona

If you fly along this longitude starting north, you will look down on Cherbourg, Leeds, Shetlands, North Pole, Wrangel, Suva, Giabourne, South Pole, Kumasi, Ouagadougou, Tiemcen, Calatayud, Pamplona

I enjoyed this addition to the storytelling.


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Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My 1st Michener and let me tell you about it as I wipe my mouth off with a napkin after having a fine meal and push my chair back...Sigh... what a journey this was.

It's 1969. The world is changing. The drifters are a new generation of young adults who are unhappy with their current lives and where they live- Joe, avoiding the draft for the vietnam war; Britta, wanting to escape the tunnel of darkness that stays for months in Norway; Monica, the child who grew up in Vwanda, fighting against the
- Kids today! I wonder if the 70s won't be even worse than than the 60s. Honestly, you don't know what to think, dropping out of school, letting their hair grow, rock and roll music, free love, drugs...

- Another martini?

- Oh, why not! Thank you. As I was saying, I don't understand young people any more, as they would say, I just don't "get" them...

- Have you read the new James Mitchener? The Drifters?

- No?

- You should take a look at it, he'll answer your questions. Great piece of work. A bit sho
Sarah Frey
Feb 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I can say with ease that this is my favorite book of all time. I read this book as a teenager and if it had done anything for me it instilled a vital desire to travel the world, especially Europe. The story-line is placed in front of a backdrop of rich European sites and culture that makes the reader crave the warm air of the Mediterranean. On top of this, the novel goes in depth to look at the politics and social conflicts of the late 1960's. It follows six very different travelers from six ver ...more
Laura Alfaro
The Drifters is the life I wish I'd had before getting married, having children, experiencing divorce and now playing it safe with a job, grown children and a mortgage. Joe, the main character from the US, is my hero. He epitomizes basic qualities of character that as you travel with him, you realize this guy is no saint but he's got heart. And he is loyal and kind, assertive and strong, and reasonable. But you'll have to read the book to know why.

James did a GREAT job with this novel and it is
Ross Barlow
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this first when I was studying at Melbourne University in 1973. I loved it. That set off be buying and keeping all of Mitchener’s books. All are excellent but The Drifters resonated with me. Mitchener managed to capture the lives of the young people described in the book so well and as a man on the cusp of leaving his teens behind, I could relate to so much of what the characters said, did and thought. Fantastic story.
Karen Jett
Jun 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
I read this book for the first time in the late 70's as a teenager. This time it's many years later and I am middle aged. How I wish that I could sit down and have a book club meeting with the teenage me!

Some parts of the book seem almost comical seen at this distance. For example, some of the conversations sound like a cliche. "Like wow!" It's hard to remember or to believe that people used to speak this way. (Just wait until we look back on the late 80's and early 90's and the valley girls!)

Alain DeWitt
Oct 02, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
This is the second Michener I've read. I hated 'Space' because in it Michener decided to fictionalize the space program. I found it an un-necessary gimmick. It seems like this is Michener's modus operandi. He does the same thing in 'The Drifters'. He takes the late '60s and then fictionalizes a couple of locations (such as the former British colony in Africa, the improbably named Vwarda) and then populated them with uninteresting, self-important windbags for characters. It's like Michener painte ...more
Amanda Markham
Aug 31, 2013 rated it liked it
Whilst the first half of the book starts off strongly, introducing each of the six young people to whom the narrator has some link, the second half of the book becomes more about place; especially history and description of place. I found it annoying that the last half of the book completely dropped the bundle when it came to characterisation. In the first six chapters, you have these long, beautifully drawn characters, each with their own inner turmoil which they 'drift' out of mainstream socie ...more
Oct 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book by James A Michener, as I have enjoyed everything else he has written. He has a way of writing that just drags you into a story and keeps you hooked there. They are always very well researched, you get the feeling he is confident in all aspects of his story.
six young people from different parts of the world Britta, from dark brooding Norway, Joe from America, Yigal from Isreal, Cato from America , Monica from Englad and Gretchen from America, all their own individual r
Helen Bothwell
Jun 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book made me want to travel! Michener paints many pictures of places I'd love to visit, but also does not leave out the grimy side of the 60s-70s. The ending is a particularly vivid reminder that the flower children were much more (and much less) than sunny, idealic people full of love. He does a great job of portraying this generation from many viewpoints so that the reader can gain an understanding of the vibrancy and excitement of embarking on this new path of freedom, but also shows th ...more
Jan 16, 2017 rated it did not like it
Gag me with a beach towel in Ceylon. What kept me reading for a while was the sheer momentum of my astonishment at how poorly written this is, how zilch he knows about being a young person in the wake of the end of the summer of love, and most of all how much misogyny, racism and anti-Semitism he manages to squeeze onto each page. He even disparages the place I live, North Norway.

There are other erudite reviews here that give the book a well-deserved analysis, better than I can be bothered to do
John Rachel
Oct 21, 2012 rated it did not like it
Don't waste your time. Michener had no feel for the counterculture of the 60s. Very stiff writing. Ugh!! ...more
Carolyn Walsh
Jul 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book explores the culture, politics, views on the Vietnam Nam war, changes in music, sexual freedom, racism, and drugs in late 1960's and early 1970's. The Drifters was published in 1972.
The narrator is a 61 year old man, Fairbanks, who feels close to six young people who travel through Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Mozambique during the Vietnam Nam era. There are three female 'drifters': one an American university student who worked on Eugene McCarthy's presidential campaign and then suppo
Maria Park
Jan 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A Generation Writ Across the World

This is my second time through The Drifters, I originally read it when I was in my twenties. Michener's prose is just as lush as I remembered. He captures the desperation, amazement, intense questioning and driving need of a generation to break free of their parents value system.

Flung across the gorgeous landscapes of frozen Norway's Trömso, Africa's British colonies in turmoil, Spain's sunny and free Torremolinos, Portugal's quiet and intimate Algarve, down mil
Yigal Zur
Sep 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
l loved the book when i read it years ago. so many years ago. it spoke to my traveling spirit. i have been to all the places from tanjir to timboktu and the israeli young guy have the same name as i do - yigal.
Apr 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It's been a long time since I've read this, but the book has stuck with me.

It was written in the late-60s / early-70s and is set in the 60s. It's a story deeply wrapped up in the issues of American culture at that time - the Vietnam War and the changing views on drugs and sex. Through Mr. Fairbanks there are also threads back to the past and the generation that had come before.

Michener is well known I think for books that focus on a place. Hawaii being once such book of that type I recall. I've
John F
Nov 30, 2016 rated it did not like it
Yes, I still have the book I started in 1973. Guess what? I'm in the age bracket of the subjects in this book and I was living in Europe, a semi-student and hard worker. I traveled a lot as a race car mechanic, driving day and night. This book was written by an old man who wrote about young people like an old man. The characters are very fictional because he knew so little about them and the post-war generation in Europe. This is NOT what it was like. Yes, there were drugs and sex and rock and r ...more
Feb 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is still one of my favorite Michener books. I read this book for the first time in about 6th or 7th grade and it shaped the way I saw the world and looking back, I think this book is what started my desire to travel. And to read even better books. To be more open-minded. To love all music. It's a great read. ...more
May 23, 2018 rated it liked it
maybe closer to a 4*, however certainly not my fav. James Michener book. My suggestion is you have a series of maps available to you as I was totally unfamiliar with most of the settings that the Drifters travelled to. Michener's writing makes these free-spirited characters come alive and if you were a teen trying to find your way in the 60's, this fiction story will appeal to you. ...more
Sep 14, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2012, didn-t-finish
I couldn't finish it, I disliked Monica too much to get past her chapter. ...more
my best friend in college, pam, wanted me to read this. I think this was her seminal 60s text the way the electric kool aid acid test was mine. I read it either on or before our weeks long trip to california where we hitchhiked and met people to get around, including my friend john d. who I am still in touch with. the book itself is less memorable to me than electric kool aid acid test. we spent some time in big sur on that trip (that's where we met john d.) and that in turn inspired me to read ...more
M.L. Rio
This is the kind of book that some people will love and some people will abandon after forty pages. I just happen to belong to the former category. I think what's so brilliant about it is actually the same thing that a lot of less enthusiastic reviewers have expressed their distaste for: namely, that it's a story about six young people coming of age in a volatile decade narrated by a sixty-year-old man. It could be easy to get hung up on Mr. Fairbanks' old-fashioned prejudices, but I think the j ...more
Stephen Hayes
Plastic hippies.

It is supposed to be the chronicle of a generation yet it seems too plastic. The characters seem to be cardboard cutouts, yet the things they did are real enough. The guys who held up the church remind me of a friend of mine, who set fire to Westminster Abbey.
Alana Weed
Oct 22, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a book about a group of young people who decide to exile themselves from their home countries and end up in Torremolinos, Spain. They start a journey of self-discovery that takes them to Portugal, Pamplona, Mozambique and Morocco. Their lives are observed by "Uncle" Gerorge, a businessman from Geneva, who ends up involved in each of their stories. Being from a different generation, he tries to understand their casual attitudes towards life, music, and drugs.
A great read, but allow a lo
Russ Jarvis
Apr 19, 2012 rated it liked it

I'm just getting into Michener. I understand that this book is different from his other novels. I found the characterizations most enjoyable and how he used them to place competing worldviews in discussion seemed realistic and unforced. It's a long book, but the way he used the first half to introduce the characters and then put them together int he second part allowed me to put it down and pick it up again according to my leisure. I felt that I really cared for these figures and they made me th
James Rose
Jan 05, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
800 pages of selfishness. Michener attempted to write an epic for the 1960's and the journey of six young people across Europe, but all he succeded in doing was glorifying the lives of six egocentric expatriots who had more time and money then they know what to do with. Michener describes several places around the world including Philadelphia, Central Africa, and Spain; however, I found his description of each place to poorly express that places characteristics. ...more
Adrienne Manwaring
Jan 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Very different than other Michener books. For those of us who grew up in the 60's and 70's, it's a must read! ...more
Janith Pathirage
Jul 10, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a flamboyant contemporary novel. James Michner's historical fiction books made him my favorite writer of all time. This is not the Michener style I'm familiar with but it was a fine novel and probably the best one I've read so far this fall.

This story is about 6 highly intelligent youngsters from different countries forming a fellowship to drift across Europe, Morocco and Mozambique. These kids from different races and nationalities got their own reasons to run away from their homes. This
Kathryn Spurgeon
Feb 16, 2021 rated it liked it
I love reading Michener's long, detailed books. His words help you live what he's writing. However, this was not my favorite. Five different stories of young drifters who find their way to meet in Europe. ...more
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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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“The permanent temptation of life is to confuse dreams with reality. The permanent defeat of life comes when dreams are surrendered to reality.” 39 likes
“I can no longer take war or promotion or big income or a large house seriously. I reject empire and Vietnam and placing a man on the moon. I deny time payments and looking like the girl next door and church weddings and a great deal more. If you want to blame such rejection on grass, you can do so. I charge it to awakening.” 8 likes
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