San Miguel, by T.C. Boyle

T.C. Boyle returns to the Channel Islands for his latest work of historical fiction. San Miguel, Boyle’s 14th novel, is actually two short novels rather than one large one. In the first, set from 1888 to 1890, Marantha Waters, a woman who loves culture and a comfortable lifestyle, agrees to move to the island with her husband and daughter to run a sheep farm, with the hope that the climate will cure Marantha’s consumption. But their experience on the island leads to more complications than they ever would have expected.

The second story occurs from 1930 to 1942 and features a different set of characters. Elise Lester and her husband, the latter still suffering the effects of shell shock during World War One, take over the land. They raise a family on the island and live a surprisingly comfortable life of domesticity. But Herbie, Elise’s husband, never quite recovers from his shell shock, and their lives are further complicated—in more ways than one—when the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor. San Miguel is an uneven novel, but it features Boyle’s usual elegant prose.

My full review appears on


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