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Book Review: The Source by James A. Michener

June 16, 2012 1 comment

The SourceThe Source by James A. Michener

Uses the background of an archaeological dig, to chronicle the rise of religion (specifically Judaism) from prehistory (30000 yrs ago), to the modern state of Israel (till 1960s, when the book was written). Defines the relationship of Judaism, with other derivative religions – Christianity and Islam.

The book moves and skips in periods of centuries, Each chapter defines an important period in the history of religion, and is based on the levels uncovered during the dig, by the archaeologists. It chronicles the adventures of the members (descendants) of a single family (of Ur) starting from the first shreds of civilization.

It’s a long read (1000 pages), but doesn’t get boring. Written in simple language, without being too judgmental about anything that happened during the time (Except towards the end, when it turns decidedly pro-Zionist). Each chapter relates modern attitudes (through conversations within the group at the archaeological dig) with the historical perspective and precedent of why the attitude prevails. Michener, while speculating on where the future might hold for Israel and Jews, doesn’t burden the book with his judgments, or force them on us, and largely sticks to the relating what happened. While the stories ARE fictional, the book is incredibly well researched insofar as the major events of times are concerned, and the generally accepted narrative of history.

If you do not know about Judaism, and it’s rise, and the attitudes it signifies, and like reading about the history of Judaism and Christianity, and history in general, give it a whirl, and it won’t disappoint. It’s a wonderful romp through a large swath of time, and definitely better than reading dry academic records of the time. All you must do, is keep reminding yourself, a lot of it is fiction. Because it is very easy to believe a lot of those stories actually happened!

So, if historical fiction and the history of religions interests you (like it does me), I recommend it wholeheartedly. You won’t be disappointed, as long as the book is. Just remember, it *is* fiction. Or read it as a collection of tales set in different historical times 🙂

My rating: Beautifully done. 4 of 5 stars

Categories: book, review, story, Uncategorized