cover image Journey


James A. Michener. Random House (NY), $25 (244pp) ISBN 978-0-394-57826-2

In straightforward, unadorned prose, Michener spins an old-fashioned historical adventure as he follows a British expedition's doomed trek across Canada to the Klondike gold fields in 1897-1899. The group's leader, Lord Evelyn Luton, is an arrogant ass whose colossal stubbornness costs the lives of three of the five men. Totally dissimilar is the party's poet, frail, sensitive Trevor Blythe. Accompanying the four well-bred Englishmen on the journey is a shrewd Irish poacher who acts as the ``servant.'' Besides exploring class tensions, Michener offers insight into how the British viewed their two former colonies--America and Canada--at the turn of the century. But basically this is an absorbing little tale of hubris, courage and redemption (Lutton, humbled by the tragedy, goes on to help Lloyd George rearm England just before WW I), as the dazed adventurers meet Canadian hucksters and friendly Indians, and cope with frozen rivers, mosquitoes, scurvy, dwindling food. In an afterword, Michener explains the germination of this saga, expanded from a section cut from his much longer novel Alaska. Maps. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club dual main selections. (July)