Written to commemorate the Bicentennial in 1976, James A. Michener’s magnificent saga of the West is an enthralling celebration of the frontier. Brimming with the glory of America’s past, the story of Colorado—the Centennial State—is manifested through its people: Lame Beaver, the Arapaho chieftain and warrior, and his Comanche and Pawnee enemies; Levi Zendt, fleeing with his child bride from the Amish country; the cowboy, Jim Lloyd, who falls in love with a wealthy and cultured Englishwoman, Charlotte Seccombe. In Centennial, trappers, traders, homesteaders, gold seekers, ranchers, and hunters are brought together in the dramatic conflicts that shape the destiny of the legendary West—and the entire country.
Praise for Centennial
“A hell of a book . . . While he fascinates and engrosses, Michener also educates.”—Los Angeles Times
“An engrossing book . . . imaginative and intricate . . . teeming with people and giving a marvelous sense of the land.”—The Plain Dealer
“Michener is America’s best writer, and he proves it once again in Centennial. . . . If you’re a Michener fan, this book is a must. And if you’re not a Michener fan, Centennial will make you one.”—The Pittsburgh Press
“An absorbing work . . . Michener is a superb storyteller.”—BusinessWeek
One of the best historical novels around.
I first read this book when I was a kid, not long after it came out in paperback. I thought it was the greatest thing I’d ever read and so, seeing it available as an audiobook on iTunes, decided to see if I still think so.
The answer is no, but it’s still a great book from the grand champion of the modern historical novel. I’ve read a lot of historical novels on the strength of my respect for Michener, but very few approach his scholarship or ability to convey the feel of an era without straying into Hollywood costume drama territory. Micheners characters are all based on actual historical figures or composites. He clearly has affection for the place and era, but he’s neither romanticist or detractor and one comes away with a strong sense of both the beauty and the ugliness of the Old West.
Maybe I should say that I am NOT a fan of Western Stuff, I’ve lived a significant portion of my life in the area this novel covers and I don’t like it. So the fact that I like this book as much as I do should tell you that this is not a typical Western. It’s a book about the folkways of a fictional American town and its real surroundings, every town in America has such a story and that, to me is what makes it interesting. Also, my favorite part when I was a kid, is the first section of the book, which describes the geological development and prehistoric history of the place, it’s something I’ve come to expect from all historical novels and hardly get, but it adds immeasurably to the sense of place.
This audiobook is given a fine, no-frills narration - it’s a digitalization of an old Books for the Blind tape, but I think it suits the story and there’s few, if any glitches in the redition.
“Centennial” is more like a stroll through real time history than rip-snortin’ Western, but it’s a rewarding and memorable read if you’re willing to take the time and are up for a little immersion course in part of Colorado's history.