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The Drifters by James A Michener (Books 2018, 29)

I think I’ve read this more times than any other book except Illuminatus!, and maybe The Lord of the Rings. Which may be only three or four times. A friend got into Michener when we were teenagers. None of his books much interested me, until I looked at this.

It’s a tale of hippies and others in 1969. Six young people from various countries meet each other in Torremolinos, and drift around the Iberian Peninsula and parts of Africa. The narrator, seemingly detached third-person at first, turns out to be an older man who knows some of the young people, and arranges business trips so that he can hang out with them from time to time.

It’s about what was going on in the world — Vietnam, the Arab/Israeli conflict, drugs, music — and about the characters. They aren’t that well developed — indeed, he largely abandons character development after the first six chapters where he introduces each one — but those introductions are enough to see us through.

Actually, thinking about it now, I wish he had written more about some of them. A sequel would have been in order.

It’s partly, I suspect, Michener’s own struggle to come to terms with the way society is changing — he was born in 1907, so he’d have been 62 at the time this is set. It was published in 71, so maybe a tad older when he wrote it. The narrator, George Fairbanks, is younger than that, I think — probably in his fifties, maybe even forties, but people seemed to become old at a younger age back then.

Well worth a read.

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