San Miguel: Book summary and reviews of San Miguel by T.C. Boyle

San Miguel

by T.C. Boyle

San Miguel by T.C. Boyle X
San Miguel by T.C. Boyle
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About this book

Book Summary

On a tiny, desolate, windswept island off the coast of Southern California, two families, one in the 1880s and one in the 1930s, come to start new lives and pursue dreams of self-reliance and freedom. Their extraordinary stories, full of struggle and hope, are the subject of T. C. Boyle’s haunting new novel.

Thirty-eight-year-old Marantha Waters arrives on San Miguel on New Year’s Day 1888 to restore her failing health.  Joined by her husband, a stubborn, driven Civil War veteran who will take over the operation of the sheep ranch on the island, Marantha strives  to persevere in the face of the hardships, some anticipated and some not, of living in such brutal isolation. Two years later their adopted teenage daughter, Edith, an aspiring actress, will exploit every opportunity to escape the captivity her father has imposed on her. 

Time closes in on them all and as the new century approaches, the ranch stands untenanted. And then in March 1930, Elise Lester, a librarian from New York City, settles on San Miguel with her husband, Herbie, a World War I veteran full of manic energy.  As the years go on they find a measure of fulfillment and serenity; Elise gives birth to two daughters, and the family even achieves a celebrity of sorts. But will the peace and beauty of the island see them through the impending war as it had seen them through the Depression?

Rendered in Boyle’s accomplished, assured voice, with great period detail and utterly memorable characters, this is a moving and dramatic work from one of America’s most talented and inventive storytellers.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"As ever, Boyle’s prose is vivid and precise, and he imbues his subjects with wonderful complexity. The perils and pleasures of island living, the limits to natural resources, and the echoes of war all provide ample grist for his mill...An episodic structure slows the momentum slightly, but it’s a richly rewarding read nonetheless." - Booklist

"Ripe with exhaustively researched period detail, Boyle’s epic saga of struggle, loss, and resilience (after When the Killing’s Done) tackles Pacific pioneer history with literary verve...The novel is primarily a history of the land itself, unchanging despite its various visitors and residents, and as beautiful, imperfect, and unrelenting as Boyle’s characters." - Publishers Weekly

"In this absorbing work, Boyle does an excellent job of describing the desperation and desolation of life on the island. Readers can almost feel the cold and damp seeping into their bones." - Library Journal

This information about San Miguel was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Diane S.

San Miguel
I love the clarity of this author's prose, his Drop City is one of my favorite books. This one did not disappoint as I loved the history behind the story. The first half of the novel was rather grim and bleak, the island and the house barely habitable. I always know an author has done a great job when I can feel the dirt, the wind, the rain and the mud, the seclusion and isolation and all that these people experienced. Could picture the rain entering my bedroom from a leaky ceiling, soaking all the bedclothes. Would have liked to have known what eventually happened to Edith but since that part of the story ended on a positive note I decided thing must have turned out well. Looking forward to seeing what this author tackles next.

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Author Information

T.C. Boyle Author Biography

T.Coraghessan Boyle is the author of twenty-eight books of fiction, including, most recently, After the Plague (2001), Drop City (2003), The Inner Circle (2004), Tooth and Claw (2005), The Human Fly (2005), Talk Talk (2006), The Women (2009), Wild Child (2010), When the Killing's Done (2011), San Miguel (2012), T.C. Boyle Stories II (2013), The Harder They Come (2015), The Terranauts (2016), The Relive Box (2017) and Outside Looking In (2019). He received a Ph.D. degree in Nineteenth Century British Literature from the University of Iowa in 1977, his M.F.A. from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1974, and his B.A. in English and History from SUNY Potsdam in 1968. He has been a member of the English Department at the University of Southern California since 1978, where he is ...

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