9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The Source" of my Middle East fascination
When I was in my early teens, back in the days of disco, fat ties, oil crises, and gaudy leisure suits (aka, the 1970s), I remember looking through my parents' book collection for the book with the most pages. At the time, I thought that the length of a book somehow corresponded to its difficulty level, and that if I could read a 1,000+ page book, then I must be REALLY...
Published on June 20 2004 by L. Feld
3.0 out of 5 stars Ambitious, compelling, uneven
Structured into self-contained, oft-interrelated period tales corresponding to archaelogical strata at a skillfully imagined dig, Michener bites off lots of history to chew. Latter episodes brim with cultural and political insight into modern Israel and its neighbors -- even decades after publication. Similarly, archaeological methods and personalities are nicely...
Published on Jan. 8 2000
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The Source" of my Middle East fascination,
This review is from: The Source (Mass Market Paperback)When I was in my early teens, back in the days of disco, fat ties, oil crises, and gaudy leisure suits (aka, the 1970s), I remember looking through my parents' book collection for the book with the most pages. At the time, I thought that the length of a book somehow corresponded to its difficulty level, and that if I could read a 1,000+ page book, then I must be REALLY smart and also grown up! Anyway, one of the first books I decided to read, based on these sophisticated criteria, was "The Source," by James Michener. Surprisingly, I found out that the book was actually easy to read, fascinating, and highly entertaining, and I whizzed right through it (boy, did I think I was smart afte that)! I remember being completely engrossed as the centuries flew past, as conquering armies marched, as cities rose and fell, as blood flowed through the streets of Jerusalem, and as the Jews wandered through the Middle East and Europe. I also remember thinking that the Middle East had an incredible history that I needed to learn a lot more about.
Well, almost 30 years later, with a Masters Degree in Middle East Studies, with a couple of trips to the region under my belt, and with a job dealing with the Middle East, I can blame it all, at least in part, on reading "The Source" at age 12 or 13. Seriously, though, I do believe that the seed of my life-long fascination with history, international relations, politics, and the Middle East was planted when I read "The Source" as a young teenager. Actually, come to think of it, another Michener book -- Centennial -- got me fascinated in the history of the West and the American Indian, while several others made me want to learn more about South Africa, Hawaii, the South Pacific, the Chesapeake region, and even outer space. So, definitely read James Michener, but be warned: you could become addicted to a lifetime of learning, travel, and adventure.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable, but not without its shortcomings,
This review is from: The Source (Mass Market Paperback)If we take the Source as a history of the Jews, which I think is what the author intended (as opposed to the history of "Makor" in the Holy Land), then I have to say that this is an excellent book. Michener writes with passion about the sufferings and resilience of the Jewish people, and his narrative explaining the origins and development of rabbinical Judaism is enlightening. The rich diversity and beauty of Ashkenazi and Sephardi culture come to life in Michener's book. One cannot help but feel a sense of empathy for the Jewish people as they struggle through exile, inquisition, pogroms, and exploitative officials.
Michener also does a good job of desribing the various inhabitants of Galilee through the ages, and through the clan of Ur, one gets a sense of how the Palestinian people came to be -- Canaanites and Philistines who were first Hellenized, then Romanized, and finally Arabized.
This book does so many things well that it is easy to overlook some serious flaws. Michener almost romanticizes Jewish history and suffering, and while his chapter "Rebbe Itzik and the Sabra" offers a compelling contrast between secular and religious Jews, it gives a woefully lopsided view of the Arab-Israeli War of 1948. The book seems to argue that the Jews "deserve" the land more because of their suffering and because "they can manage it better." It fails to establish the connection of the Arabs with the land -- as though the Palestinian Arabs "deserve" to be exiled -- even though the character Jemail Tabari supposedly is a descendant of people who lived there 12,000 years ago. Indeed, an examination of the chapter "Twilight of an Empire" reveals unforgivably stereotyped Arabs -- flat, colorless, without culture, dirty, corrupt, and often cruel. While Michener mentions Arab massacres of Jews, he neglects to mention the Deir Yassin Massacre or Hagganah massacres of Arabs in 1948.
Read this book if you want to learn more about Jewish history and religion (on these merits, I would rate it 9/10). On the other hand, I would rate the book's historical accuracy about 7/10.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost a religious experience....,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Source (Mass Market Paperback)I cannot vouch for the absolute historical authenticity of this magnificent book. Even biblical scholars can't do that. I have read many religious texts that were supposed to inspire me, save my soul, help me approach God. They didn't quite measure up. Michener did not intend to write a spiritual text, but his convincing romp through the "evolution of religion" came close to turning my agnostic beliefs into those of a near-believer. Much more than the "Holy" Bible ever did. Fascinating, layered characterizations, riveting plots, and truly educational exploration of the meaning of mankind's place in the cosmos give The Source a top-ten ranking among my favorite books of all time. I was thrilled to see so many glowing reviews of this book, and so few negatives.
5.0 out of 5 stars It is a Michener Novel - Should be excellent,
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Source (Mass Market Paperback)As an avid Michener fan, I continue to purchase from the extensive list on Amazon. I haven't read the book as yet, next in line but....he has failed to disappoint over the years.
4.0 out of 5 stars Journey Through History,
This review is from: The Source (Mass Market Paperback)This book is a historical fiction that describes the generations of a fictional town of Makor in Galilee. The author journeys through the various epochs of history in a interesting and sometimes political fashion, and in doing this he opinionates about the various religions that have settled in the area.
The author uses his perspective on the evolution of religion that was popular around the publishing date. Namely that religion evolved out of the need of prehistoric humans to reconcile personals needs to environmental challenges.
The purpose of this review is not to quibble over fact or fiction but the author seems to de-construct some history in favour of his evolution of religion agenda. For example the gradual migration of the Jews into Galilee and the gradual assimilation of the population into the new religion of Israel is portrayed as de facto history in this work of fiction. As such the master of inter-generational historical fiction seems not to use history as a touch point for his fiction but used the fiction to de-construct the history.
In the latter pages the place of modern Israel is debated amongst the characters. At the time of publishing modern Israel was still defining itself in the world and Michener covers all the issues, even the controversial ones in an engaging fashion. I found this book hard to read at times due the sometimes ugly depiction of various negative moments of history. But I did find myself engaged by the heroes of modern day Israel just because they were underdogs in that drama of independence of Israel.
5.0 out of 5 stars Nobody Does it Better Than Michener!,
This review is from: The Source (Mass Market Paperback)This is probably the best epic account of the history of the Jewish people in Israel. The story focuses on an archeological dig at a Tel in Israel. As new things are discovered at the Tel, Michener then goes on to give the story of what happened at the spot. The stories are so rich and told in such interesting fashion. A good starting point for those who no notheing about the history of the region.
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding historical fiction,
This review is from: The Source (Hardcover)The Source is essentially the story of Jewish history from about 10,000 BCE.
Michener is well known for making "place" the focal point of his stories, and in this book the "place" is an archeological dig in the Middle East near the Sea of Galilee. The earliest section of the book introduces the dig and the principle characters (the archaeologists) who begin excavating the tell (the mound that is the dig site) and unearthing artifacts. Each chapter then recounts the story behind each artifact they find and how it got there. The order is chronological, beginning about 12,000 years ago and ending in the mid-twentieth century.
It is essentially a very entertaining history lesson disguised as a historical novel. It is easily digestible, or "history light", but a great introduction for those not wanting to read what some refer to as the "dry history" of traditional history texts.
The archaeologists make brief appearances throughout the various stories and do a lot of philosophizing about the relations between the Jews, Christians, and Moslems and the various moral dilemmas each group has faced at various times throughout history. I found it interesting, though some may find it a bit forced.
Overall, if you do like historical fiction, this is one of the best!
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful, wonderful book,
This review is from: The Source (Mass Market Paperback)This has to be, hands down, one of my favourite books of all time. It not only presents a gripping story (or multiple stories, each rivetting) but it also served to reinvigorate my own faith.
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and Emotional,
This review is from: The Source (Mass Market Paperback)The Source is a sweep back through time to the Jewish people of the Middle East. The story takes us back to the days when the gods were little statues, monoliths on a mountain, and child-eating fires. It moves forward through time to the mid-sixties. The author uses the tool of mini-stories, one per chapter, to show the evolution of one era to the next.
Individually, the chapters (stories) are well-written and emotionally compelling. Some will break your heart. Some will make you cheer. Overall, the book does an excellent job of showing how the Jewish people feel about themselves, their homeland, each other, and their religion. They are not over-simplified but shown in the full complexity of their feelings and experience. This is what the book does really well.
The only complaint that I have is that some parts of the book are historically questionable. Many will feel that the story shows a bias against certain religious/ethnic factions. The author also occasionally gets a little lax about using modern verbage in inappropriate settings. For example, I can't imagine someone in the pre-Christian era using the word 'cronies'.
Overall, though, the book is good and worth reading for a picture of the Jewish feelings that may have been manifest in different periods. It is also excellent as pure fiction. I enjoyed it a lot.
4.0 out of 5 stars A great epic portrayal of the history of the Jews, but...,
This review is from: The Source (Mass Market Paperback)Departing from a digging in an archeological place where important ancient pieces are dug up, Michener reconstructs the whole history of the Jewish people from the early beginnings of Judaism to the contemporary sabra fighting for Israel independence in the XX century
Every chapter develops over a period in history and relates to a piece found and later traced to that specific time
Positive: Though recreated with some fictional contents, is an excellent book for all Jewish people interested in a general overview of the history of their ancestors and that will surely contribute to the strengthening of their identity
Negative: Almost no reference to the Holocaust, the worst atrocity ever perpetrated in the history of mankind, was made Nazism and Hitler look almost non existent
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The Source by James A. Michener (Mass Market Paperback - March 12 1986)
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