cover image Caribbean


James A. Michener. Random House (NY), $22.95 (672pp) ISBN 978-0-394-56561-3

Aimed straight for the bestseller lists, Michener's latest, patented blend of fiction and history ( Journey; Alaska; etc.) vividly captures the rhythms of the Caribbean islands from the days when the peace-loving Arawak Indians were overpowered by cannibalistic Caribs, to a ship's tour of today's still lush, but troubled, paradise. Sir Francis Drake, pirate Henry Morgan, Horatio Nelson, Haitian General Toussaint L'Ouverture, Fidel Castro march across the pages, and while the pace is sometimes achingly slow, the dialogue stilted and the characterization skimpy, Michener laces the whole with fiery Caribbean drama: maritime scuffles between England and Spain; swashbuckling buccaneers; bloody slave revolts that birthed a new, black nation; social color wars springing from the mix of races; the rise of Rastafarianism; and shock waves sent by the Cuban revolution. By carrying early characters forward through the generations, the author advances a narrative that peaks in a grand, romantic finale. BOMC main selection. (Nov.)