Highlights from Caribbean: A Novel :
- Each chapter is a vignette about a certain time period spanning 700 years of tumultuous Caribbean history, beginning with the conquest of the peaceful Arawak tribe by cannibals of the Carib tribe in 1310.
- If there was ever any question that Christopher Columbus was a bad guy, there won’t be after you read the chapter dedicated to his presence in the area.
- Other chapters include one on the end of the Mayan empire told through the eyes of a mother and son, another on the infamous buccaneer Henry Morgan’s notorious reign, another on the bloody and horrific slave revolt on Haiti, and another on the rise of Fidel Castro in Cuba.
- Panama makes a showing in several chapters, including its sacking by Captain Morgan and crew.
- In his usual style, Michener makes learning about centuries of history exciting by weaving fiction and non-fiction into fascinating stories that bring real and imagined historical characters to life.
James Michener is my go to author when I want to learn the in-depth history of an area. Caribbean: A Novel had been at the top of my To Be Read list for awhile because of my impending move to Panamá.
James has a formula that totally works for me. He starts as far back as he can research, in this case with the wonderful Arawak indigenous tribe, and weaves stories out of non-fiction facts and fictional characters. Each (long) chapter is vignette covering a particular time frame, which is nice because if one is boring, it won’t be too long until you’re reading something quite different!
As a result of reading this book, my naïveté about the Caribbean is gone. I can now see past the beautiful white sand beaches and turquoise waters to what lies just under the surface—a variety of cultures where most of the population was deeply impacted by an incredibly tumultuous, violent, and heartbreaking history.
I was pleasantly surprised at the presence of Panamá throughout the book and very grateful for the deeper understanding of the history that, of course, is the basis of the mindset and opinions of many native Panamanians.