Mexico: A Novel by James A. Michener  » Books  »
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  • Michener's writings, and I consider Mexico to be one of his best novels
  • I enjoy Michener's novels because I always learn a great deal about the countries in which his stories are set
  • Unfortunately, this was the also the time of the Spanish Inquisition when the new god demanded human sacrifices every bit as barbaric as those of her old god
  • Before I read Michener's novel, I'd read some reader reviews who complained that there was way too much bullfighting, and I wasn't looking forward to these sections because I thought they might just rehash Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises
  • But I thought those sections were very interesting because they introduced a wealth of insider information, and did not shy away from the more seedy aspects of the sport

    • by charles63
      TRUSTWORTHY

      all reviews
      I greatly admire James A. Michener’s writings, and I consider “Mexico” to be one of his best novels.

      It reads almost like a novella, though it runs over 600 pages. The main story takes place during a three-day festival in a fictional Mexican city named Toledo (named after the Spanish city) near Mexico City. Atypically for Michener, the book is written in the first person. A reporter is sent by his newspaper in New York to cover the festival. Intriguingly, the reporter tells us that he was sent to cover a murder — one that hasn’t taken place yet.

      We, the readers, soon learn what he means by this. It’s a bullfighting duel between two rival matadors seeking to establish their dominance. The reporter feels that the rivalry is so heated that one or the other will be goaded into taking such a long-shot chance that it amounts to suicide.

      The novel is


      so long because the histories of the characters are told in great detail, and as we learn their histories we also learn the history of Mexico itself.

      The narrator is a U.S. citizen, but he was born in Mexico — in the very city to which he has returned to write his newspaper article. His ancestry contains prominent members of all three dominant cultures that have formed modern Mexico: Native Indian, Spanish, and American.

      I enjoy Michener’s novels because I always learn a great deal about the countries in which his stories are set. In this novel, we learn how the Indians migrated southward from Alaska following the coastline, and how a group decided to veer away from the coast before they got to Baja California, and wound up populating the area around present-day Mexico City. Different tribes evolved different religions, and some were nomadic and came into conflict with other tribes.

      Michener explains how one tribe, which he explains is a composite of several actual tribes, conquered a more peaceful tribe and imposed its warlike god upon it. The god demanded human sacrifices in exchange for prowess in battle and to reverse the dwindling away of the length of the days each year.

      One of the reporter’s Indian ancestors was instrumental in repudiating this god, and was very receptive to the new god that the Spanish conquistadors introduced — a more loving god. Unfortunately, this was the also the time of the Spanish Inquisition when the new god demanded human sacrifices every bit as barbaric as those of her old god.

      Before the chapters begin that are dedicated to the history of the reporter’s ancestors, we are given references to some of the historical highlights as the reporter mentions important moments in his past growing up during the turmoil of the Mexican Revolution. After ...


      • Mexico: A Novel by James A. Michener
      being given nibbles of the story, it’s quite gratifying when the complete story is revealed.

      In addition to the story of the native tribes that first inhabited Mexico, we learn of the lives of the reporter’s ancestors in Spain at the time of the Spanish Inquisition. And we learn how a pair of brothers of this family followed Cortez to Mexico: one brother a missionary; the other a soldier. We learn how another branch of his family lived in the United States at the time of the Civil War fighting for the confederacy and became so bitter about the Union victory that emigration to Mexico seemed the only sane course of action.

      The bullfights that the reporter covers are the center of gravity around which the historical stories revolve. One of the reporter’s relatives is a wealthy landowner who raises prize bulls for the bullfights, and the reporter also benefits from

      a close acquaintance with an established critic who knows bullfighting inside and out.

      Before I read Michener’s novel, I’d read some reader reviews who complained that there was way too much bullfighting, and I wasn’t looking forward to these sections because I thought they might just rehash Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises”. But I thought those sections were very interesting because they introduced a wealth of insider information, and did not shy away from the more seedy aspects of the sport. The events play out unpredictably, and I felt that I had a ringside seat to Mexico’s favorite sport which does much to define a vital strain in modern Mexico’s character.

      It’s a very worthwhile addition to Michener’s globetrotting fiction, and one that almost never got published. Michener’s “My Lost Mexico” tells the story of how it finally took shape 30 years after he first started it. I’m very grateful that the story was finally completed.




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The review was published as it's written by reviewer in July, 2010. The reviewer certified that no compensation was received from the reviewed item producer, trademark owner or any other institution, related with the item reviewed. The site is not responsible for the mistakes made. 1720071200060931/k2311a0720/7.20.10
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