Mexico

( 14 )

Overview

Pulitzer Prize–winning author James A. Michener, whose novels hurtle from the far reaches of history to the dark corners of the world, paints an intoxicating portrait of a land whose past and present are as turbulent, fascinating, and colorful as any other on Earth. When an American journalist travels to report on the upcoming duel between two great matadors, he is ultimately swept up in the dramatic story of his own Mexican ancestry—from the brilliance and brutality of the ancients, to the iron fist of the ...

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Mexico: A Novel

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Overview

Pulitzer Prize–winning author James A. Michener, whose novels hurtle from the far reaches of history to the dark corners of the world, paints an intoxicating portrait of a land whose past and present are as turbulent, fascinating, and colorful as any other on Earth. When an American journalist travels to report on the upcoming duel between two great matadors, he is ultimately swept up in the dramatic story of his own Mexican ancestry—from the brilliance and brutality of the ancients, to the iron fist of the invading Spaniards, to modern Mexico, fighting through dust and bloodshed to build a nation upon the ashes of revolution. Architectural splendors, frenzied bullfights, horrific human sacrifice: Michener weaves them all into an epic human story that ranks with the best of his beloved bestselling novels.
 
Praise for Mexico
 
“Michener the storyteller at his finest . . . There are splendid and authentic scenes in the plaza de toros that are as dramatic as any written by Ernest Hemingway or Barnaby Conrad.”The New York Times Book Review
 
“Astounding . . . fast-moving, intriguing . . . Michener is back in huge, familiar form with Mexico.”—Los Angeles Daily News
 
“An enthralling story . . . Michener artfully combines the history of Mexico with the art of bullfighting, teaching the reader about both and telling a grand story at the same time.”St. Louis Post-Dispatch
 
“A novel of epic proportions, abounding in visual and historical detail.”Richmond Times-Dispatch

Michener's newest #1 bestselling saga tells of several centuries in one of the world's most tumultuous lands. Mexico is the magnificent story of an American journalist who travels to report on two great matadors . . . and is swept up in the story of his Mexican ancestors. (Historical Fiction)

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Michener the storyteller at his finest . . . There are splendid and authentic scenes in the plaza de toros that are as dramatic as any written by Ernest Hemingway or Barnaby Conrad.”The New York Times Book Review
 
“Astounding . . . fast-moving, intriguing . . . Michener is back in huge, familiar form with Mexico.”—Los Angeles Daily News
 
“An enthralling story . . . Michener artfully combines the history of Mexico with the art of bullfighting, teaching the reader about both and telling a grand story at the same time.”St. Louis Post-Dispatch
 
“A novel of epic proportions, abounding in visual and historical detail.”Richmond Times-Dispatch
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Schematic plotting, tortilla-thin characterizations and lengthy digressions on bullfighting mar this lumbering multigenerational saga about Mexico's resilient spirit, which Michener began in 1961 and returned to 30 years later. Norman Clay, earnest American journalist born and raised in Mexico, is sent to his native city in 1961 to cover a potentially deadly showdown between two famous matadors who represent ``the two faces of Mexico, the Spaniard versus the Indian.'' This bullfight festival, the book's centerpiece, is interwoven with more interesting historical interludes in which Clay grapples with his own mixed heritage. His diverse ancestors include a 16th-century Mexican Indian queen who leads a women's revolt against human sacrifice, a Spanish scholar burned at the stake during the Inquisition, a Franciscan soldier-priest who accompanies Hernan Cortes to Mexico, a Virginia plantation proprietor who loses his wife and sons in the Civil War, and Clay's father, a silver-mine owner who participates in the Mexican Revolution. The colorful novel cuts a wide swath through history but doesn't catch fire as a personal story. BOMC main selection. (Dec.)
Library Journal
Michener began this novel 30 years ago, put it aside, and until recently left it unfinished. Perhaps that is why it is less formulaic than most of his mammoth excursions into the history of particular localities. Mexican-born Norman Clay, a journalist for a New York publication, returns to his natal city to report on the bullfights that highlight its annual festival. This year two matadors are joined in a rivalry that could end in death. Michener dramatizes the contradictions of contemporary Mexico not only in the conflicting styles and backgrounds of the matadors but also through the many duplicities inherent in bullfighting itself. The contradictions of 1961 Mexico are the result of its history, which is personified by Norman Clay, with his heritage of Pre-Columbian Amerindians, Spanish clerics and conquistadors, rancheros and mestizos, and even an unreconstructed Virginia rebel who found sanctuary in Mexico following our Civil War. Not the usual dutiful slog through the generations but a more carefully constructed interweaving of present and past, and one of Michener's finest efforts. Previewed in Prepub Alert, 8/92.-- Charles Michaud, Turner Free Lib., Randolph, Mass.
Donna Seaman
The publisher tells us that Michener, author of 35 big books, many graced by grand one word titles of places as storied as "Hawaii", "Poland", "Texas", "Alaska", and "Caribbean", began his epic novel of Mexico in 1961, but "put the manuscript aside 20. 20. 20. and then lost track of it." Somehow the project resurfaced and the king of epics completed it, turning out yet another ambitious and crowd-pleasing historical pageant. "Mexico" embraces and animates 1500 years of cultural conflict, romance, adventure, exploitation, and bloodshed. The narrator is Norman Clay, a successful journalist in his fifties, the product of "three radically different bloodlines": Mexican Indian, Spanish, and Virginian. Born and raised in a town in Central Mexico where his family ran a silver mine, Clay was educated in the States and hadn't been home in years. His return is precipitated by an assignment to cover the showdown between two ferociously competitive bullfighters, one of Spanish descent, the other an Indian. Michener employs this type of dichotomy throughout the book. The town itself is a symbol of dualism, sporting both a brooding prehistoric pyramid which became the site of gruesome human sacrifices and an elaborate Spanish Catholic cathedral. As the battle of the matadors proceeds suspensefully in the present, flashbacks highlighting the lives of Clay's ancestors trace the rise and fall of Mexico's great civilizations; Spain's obsession with gold, silver, and the conversion of the "pagans" to Catholicism; and the often strained relationship between Mexico and the U.S. Michener is a tireless source of homey AB>anecdotes and quick characterizations, loved by his readers for his mild teaching and absorbing entertainment.
Kirkus Reviews
The master of The Big National Treatment (Caribbean, Alaska, Poland, etc.) moves Mexico and Mexican history to the background of a novel about the passions, fine points, and meaning of bullfighting. Readers hoping to bone up on everything there is to know about America's new free-trading partner will find that Michener's Mexican history course ends during the Kennedy Administration when, according to Random House, the author set the uncompleted manuscript aside. Rather than drenching the book in post-Vietnam revisionism, Michener, in resuming the work, has left his story and his characters frozen in the sensibility of l961 when the peso was cheaper, there was no OPEC, no Canc£n, and, since there were no animal activists, metaphors such as bullfighting could still fly. His narrator is Norman Clay, a middle-aged magazine writer, the son of a Mexican mother and a Virginian father. After decades of absence, Clay returns to Toledo, the silver-mining city founded and reshaped by his Indian and Spanish ancestors respectively. He's there to reminisce (at length) and to write a story about an annual festival centered on three days of bullfighting. As a reporter and a relative of the town's leading family, the Palafoxes, breeders of Mexico's finest fighting bulls, Clay has an entr‚e to everything of interest going on in Toledo. Hooked up by his publisher with a party of oil-rich Oklahomans, Clay has scores of opportunities to use that entr‚e—and does, introducing the Yanquis to all the matadors, picadors, and the ghosts of the past. Anything Clay doesn't know about bulls, Leon Ledesma, the country's leading critic of the bullring and a charming, world-class cynic, does. TheOklahomans, staying up for those late Mexican suppers, learn plenty. The youngest of them, a pretty heiress just out of high school, learns just enough but not too much about Love and Nobility from the matadors. Genteel, free of epic overkill, safe for all ages, although kids may ask, "What's a bullfight?" (Book-of-the-Month Dual Selection for January)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780449221877
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/28/1994
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 672
  • Sales rank: 246,042
  • Product dimensions: 6.86 (w) x 11.04 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

James A. Michener was one of the world’s most popular writers, the author of more than forty books of fiction and nonfiction, including the Pulitzer Prize–winning Tales of the South Pacific, the bestselling novels The Source, Hawaii, Alaska, Chesapeake, Centennial, Texas, Caribbean, and Caravans, and the memoir The World Is My Home. Michener served on the advisory council to NASA and the International Broadcast Board, which oversees the Voice of America. Among dozens of awards and honors, he received America’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1977, and an award from the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities in 1983 for his commitment to art in America. Michener died in 1997 at the age of ninety.

Biography

James Albert Michener is a Pulitzer prize-winning author reknowned for his historical epics. A prolific novelist and relentless researcher, Michener wrote over books. Despite his substantial commercial success, he was known to be a humble man and a was an active philanthropist. His many beloved works include Tales of the South Pacific, which was adapted for Broadway and film as South Pacific, Hawaii and The Source.

Author biography courtesy of Random House, Inc.

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    1. Also Known As:
      James Albert Michener (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 3, 1907
    1. Date of Death:
      October 16, 1997
    2. Place of Death:
      Austin, Texas

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 14 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 3, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Michener is my vacation go-to guy!

    I chose to read this book on my vacation to Mexico because no other author so consistently provides me with the flavor of a region like Michener. The frame story in this book is an epic show-down between two matadors in the bullrings of Mexico, and after the amazing bullfight descriptions, I had to avail myself of the opportunity to see a fight while I was there. Yet another great story by one of my favorite authors.

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  • Posted May 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Mexico: A different perspective

    This is not a typical Michener novel. Nor is it historically accurate.This is a flight-of-fancy "Mexico a la Michener". And he has taken liberties in strange ways. But I still liked it as I am facinated by the history and culture of Mexico, especially now as we are unearthing more and more evidence of ancient advanced civilizations. Even though it is not spot-on in accuracy, Michener has painted the right feel, created the right sensory atmosphere for the setting and the tumultous historical backdrop. He apparently really loved visiting Mexico and treats in a very romantic manner. A major plus to reading this book is that you will have a much better understanding of the sport of bullfighting.It is very obvious that the bullfight was a sport close to his heart.

    It is a little evident that he wrote this in his early career, before honing down his magnificent approach to research. He started this in the early 60's and then abandoned the project.I suspect he just got too entwined in too many intricate plotlines, or realized that the main plotline suffered in comparison to the bullfight chapters. But he dusted it off in the 90's and offered it up 4 years before he died, and I'm glad he did. Regardless of it not being as well-researched and written as others, this is still a very worthwhile read and belongs in your Michener collection.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2007

    A reviewer

    This is a great book. I agree with 15-year-old reviewer, John. I don't normally read history, but this book was truly great. The descriptions are absolutely amazing. I thot the book was about bullfighting at first. Bull preparation and action do play a large part in the novel, but the sad history of Mexico is also discussed. Then their is the eroticism, which seems to be Michener's own, which is strewn throughout and layered in through a present day cast of characters who are visiting Mexico. I can see why some might not find the book interesting: Michener goes into great detail. I, however, am sucker for detail. It's not a 'light read.'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2004

    Great Story-Boring history lesson

    Names that were very hard to pronounce, and difficult to keep track of. You could tell that the thirty years between the start and end of the book were a change of the writers views. I enjoyed the bullfight part of the story, and a few of the facts of Toledo, but the rest was useless information.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2004

    Disappointing

    I have loved many of Michener's books (Hawaii, The Source, Texas) - but this was thoroughly disappointing. There was no passion and certainly minimal history of Mexico in this book. Instead, it seemed to be an expository writing on bullfighting. If you want to read a good historical fiction on Mexico - read Aztec by Gary Jennings - an excellent captivating book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2003

    Why don't they just tell you to learn some Spanish words

    The most boring book i have read it is too big and boring and when it does ever get intresting it goes to another topic that is boring. The book goes through ancestors too and it is hard to keep track of who is who and hard to remember people's names.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2002

    terrible book

    Mexico, is a terrible novel. You should just read a text book. This is a soporific novel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2000

    Excelent

    An exelent book, that keeps the reader so entraped in the book you cant put it down. Michner vividly describes the modern bullfight.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2000

    Mexico by J. Michener: A Bibliophile's Club Med

    I am a Reading Specialist and a true bibliophile to begin with and Michener never ceases to satisfy my unsatiable desire for good literature! I have read some of his other works (Alaska, Chesapeake, The Drifters, Hawaii) and of course, Mexico (2X). This is by far my favorite because in my opinion Micheners'style is best represented in this work. Michener brilliantly intertwines both interesting fictional characters with interesting historical events and people which makes a very entertaining and educational read. I particularly enjoyed Mexico because it was NOT just about Mexico; the novel delved deep into the history of Old Spain, the conquering of Mexico by Spain, the Civil War of the United States all under the umbrella of a contemporary visit to Mexico to learn more about bullfighting. When he does venture into the ancient history of Mexico, it is vivid, realistic and fascinatingly dramatized by well-developed characters that seem to be real. One really gets a sense of 'being' there and both laments and rejoices at Mexico's tragedies and triumphs. I enjoy learning about history through the use of colorful characters such as the one Michener develops. Much more interesting than when I was in school! When I finish reading a Michener book, particularly one as engulfing as Mexico, I feel like my mind and perspective has noteably expanded. Not only do I derive great please from the characters, but I also feel like I just did some heavy duty travel! A great book to read over the summer! I plan to re-read it as well as attack his Centennial, Hawaii and The Source. I am well aware that some (much?) of the history may not be verifiable, but the general idea is there and I still enjoy the learning experience.

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    Posted January 19, 2010

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