The Drifters: A Novel

by James A. Michener

Hardcover, 1971



Fiction. Suspense. Thriller. Historical Fiction. HTML:“Rings with authentic detail and clearly descriptive sights and smells . . . The Drifters is to the generation gap what The Source was to Israel.”—Publishers Weekly In this triumphant bestseller, renowned novelist James A. Michener unfolds a powerful and poignant drama of disenchanted youth during the Vietnam era. Against exotic backdrops including Spain, Morocco, and Mozambique, he weaves together the heady dreams, shocking tribulations, and heartwarming bonds of six young runaways cast adrift in the world—as well as the hedonistic pursuit of drugs and pleasure that collapses all around them. With the sure touch of a master, Michener pulls us into the private world of these unforgettable characters, exposing their innermost desires with remarkable candor and infinite compassion. BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from James A. Michener's Hawaii.   Praise for The Drifters   “A blockbuster of a book . . . full of surprise, drama, and fascination.”—Philadelphia Bulletin   “[The Drifters] conveys a sense of a new time, a new generation.”—Chicago Sun-Times   “Michener has slid open a window on the world of the dropout and has spared no effort to make the reader aware of this new world.”—The Salt Lake Tribune.… (more)


½ (208 ratings; 3.8)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Siobhon
I first read this book when I was 14, in the 70's and I love it even though I cried at the end.
(I cried at the end because it was THE END) Gretchen, Joe, Cato, Britta, Yigal and even Monica were my friends, I loved them and hated them, I wanted to be there with them, one of them....and then the
Show More
book ended and my friends were gone.
I started reading it again twice more but never finished...I know the end, I know my friends will be gone, and...times have changed, eh. BUT this book sits taped together on my bookshelf, although I'll never read it again, because when I was 14 this book moved me in such a way that no other book had done before.
If you are a child of the 60's and/or the 70's I highly recommend reading this book.
Show Less
LibraryThing member finalcut
I read this when I was about 16 and I really enjoyed it. It tells the story of some young adults during the late 60's early 70s and their stranges paths that led them each to Torremolinos Spain. Some of the stuff that happens in the book is pretty crazy (at least it was to me at the time) but I
Show More
thought it was a very entertaining story.
Show Less
LibraryThing member TadAD
This is my favorite Michener novel. It's not that I think it's his best writing, it's just that it came out right when I was in that phase of my life and it really resonated for me.
LibraryThing member santhony
Didn't much care for this Michener effort. Not the typical Michener historical fiction novel.
LibraryThing member Iudita
I liked this book because I thought it really captured the essence of the time.
LibraryThing member mwhel
This book was like a candy store when I first read it in the seventies. The idea of such of free and open world was very enticing. Even though the author was quite critical of the lifestyles, you could also see how sympathetic he was to what was happening. For young impressionable minds during that
Show More
period, this book was liberating.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Fritz47
I read this book when I was 15 years old. 1973. And it changed my life. Torremolinos seemed so exotic and appeared like paradise. With a very openminded lifestyle and not many problems. A perfect get-away. So it looked like an escape from troubles. I hich-hiked to Berlin, to Amsterdam and then to
Show More
Torrmolinos. I stayed there for 7 weeks and it was exactly like the book described it. Experiences in Paradise that formed my future. Thank you Eva for lending and James Michener for writing that book.
Show Less
LibraryThing member jpsnow
Different from the model of his other works I've read, what I like is that it really gave a balanced, in-depth portrayal of a generation before me (or more properly, the extreme members of it). The aging narrator also gave some personal insight into Michener.
LibraryThing member Glorybe1
I really enjoyed this book by James A Michener, as I have enjoyed everything else he has written. He has a way of writing that just drags you into a story and keeps you hooked there. They are always very well researched, you get the feeling he is confident in all aspects of his story.
six young
Show More
people from different parts of the world Britta, from dark brooding Norway, Joe from America, Yigal from Isreal, Cato from America , Monica from Englad and Gretchen from America, all their own individual reasons for leaving their homes and travelling, all of them escaping though from things they cannot or have no wish to understand. They are trying to "find themselves".
They all come together in Torremilinos in a bar called The Alamo, which is where their adventures start. They drift around Spain, the Algarve, Pamplona, Mocambique experiencing new things and end up in Marrakech, where tagedy stikes the group.
I found myself shouting at them in my head because whilst they were bumming around doing dreadful things to their minds and bodies, you weren't quite sure if they would find themselves or just make a whole mess up of their lives!!
I think if I had read this book 30 years ago I would have thought about it in such a different light. It is a young persons book, as this is what they will do for ever more, try and change things for the better and never really suceeding in understand what it is they want.
Show Less
LibraryThing member rampaginglibrarian
James Michener does hippies--in a nutshell. I wanted to love this book~it being Michener~me being a born again, wannabe hippy. Michener wasn't a hippy though.
LibraryThing member Stbalbach
Like many others I read this in high school (9th or 10th grade) and it made an impression. I was late to it, in the early 1980s, however did some "drifting" not long after, perhaps influenced although I don't remember many of the details of the story now. The book is an artifact of its time and
Show More
will be lost to it, perhaps still occasionally read because of Michener.
Show Less
LibraryThing member robeik
I got to the end of this long book because of the way the author developed the characters at the start of the book. However, there are some long and tedious sections (especially the one building up the character of Holt). I was a bit distrubed too that the narrator is somewhat of an enabler of the
Show More
life style that these young people got into; but there are lots more dodgy characters in the book.

Perhaps not, but is this the first mention of the term 'climate change' in a novel? Page 800 in my copy.
Show Less
LibraryThing member dbsovereign
Captures a somewhat biased version of young expats who are discovering what it's like to be a "hippie" in the 60s. Part travel romance, part story about growing up [disillusioned] and struggling to find meaning in life.
LibraryThing member MarthaJeanne
Recently both my husband and I wanted to reread this. Our old copy must have been read to death, as it wasn't around, so I bought a new one.

Yes, it is still as gripping as I remember, but I think I felt less involved in it. I was born only a few years after the young people in the book, but enough
Show More
that their culture was never mine. My 'drifting' took a very different tangent. And theirs never attracted me. Now at the age of the older men, I don't feel like them either. Perhaps partly because they are so, not misogynic - I don't think they really hate women - but just so wrapped up in their male world that women don't exist for them.

The two older men are just as much drifters as the young people. They have never settled down, although they have found constructive ways of living.

I think what really struck me while reading this is how much has changed in the last 50 years. The kind of travel they do is no longer possible. And much of what they see no longer exists in the same way. More people means less space. More people travelling means that it is all much more organized. The hotel here in Vienna by the skating rink (and where I in the 70s still skated to 'Rock around the Clock') is about to be torn down.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Auntie-Nanuuq
This is poignant novel written about a group of friends as they travel through Spain and settle (for the most part) in the town of Torrremolinos.

We see them as lost and disenchanted, searching for adventure and meaning in life...adventures abound and tragedy befalls them, forcing them to take
Show More
another look at themselves and the life of "drifting" they have chosen.

This is a very well written book, even if it is a bit long.
Show Less
LibraryThing member fearless2012
Maybe the most clever detail is the (almost) unnamed speaker, who is old and rich, in a cast in which the draft-dodger is in a way the most "conventional". (It's subtle, but it's a very long novel and the author has left himself alot of room for detail and secondary characters.) He-- the young
Show More
American man-- consistently rejects each option which would be harmful to others, with an insistent morality, and the others are equally persistent with their problems.
Probably the most obvious thing about the book is its great length-- there are (at least) half a dozen major characters, (trying to name a single main character-- some symbolic center-- would probably cause a minor scandal, and especially if you settled on the elderly English narrator with a minor speaking role), and each character has his or her own, rather long, story, and the only thing that these stories have in common is that eventually it brings them to a common place (or places!). The only other thing they might have in common-- maybe-- is a common alienation, since it does seem as though no-one is "normal", no-one stands in the "center", and no-one is really making the rules that are being made. Things happen to all of them, and that is all they have in common, aside from common humanity, although that is rather philosophical, perhaps. At any rate they all wanted the same sunny things, and ended up in the same Spanish town.
Maybe the oddest aspect of this book written to explain the youth and youth culture-- like rock music-- is that it has so little of the careless abandon of the English rock band, writing songs about nothing more dramatic or serious than girls who have nothing to worry about, except that they don't know how beautiful they are.... It's too serious for that. Partly because of the time, because less of that existed in the past-- even in the 60s-- since past conditions were more violent, and more primitive. But it also has something to do with the speaker, I think-- and the author. He tries painfully hard to include everyone, but sometimes the hardest bridge to cross-- certainly one of the wider gaps-- is that between an analytical older man, and the sort of younger man into rock music and drugs and youth culture. It's hard to go that deep when you are that separate. And something about the very ambition of the work-- the inherent ambition to get high up and look down on *all* of it.... since it is a very inherently ambitious work-- and so that separates it, creates a degree or separation, a different spirit, from that which it seeks to describe: being unfettered, just cutting loose, having fun, going on vacation, indulging yourself-- not being heavy about things, and going about things that way. The benevolent grandfather peering in on this from the outside, who concerns himself with loans and grants and human development in the abstract, can only understand so much of this-- there is a sort of distortion which is bound to go on if he tries to describe it, and especially if he has never experienced similar things in his own youth. And he may well *not* have, since before the 60s, the situation was almost hopelessly violent and primitive, rather than merely chronically so. And it is many years back, from being a grandfather, to being a single young man.
That seems to be the weakest point for me, although it may be merely the most obvious *to* me. For if that's true, then it puts in doubt the speaker's whole project of understanding and, well, speaking for everyone-- albeit though he tries to do it in a humble way, and tries to make himself invisible, almost. But if he cannot do it for the first one, then he cannot do it for the second one, and the next one, and so on down the line. And especially since there is almost a pattern of each successive person analyzed or whatever, being slightly more alienated and apart from everybody else, than the one before was, with the potential draftee with near-inescapable paradoxes and practically impossible moral dilemmas being almost the most "normal", or whatever the hell it is.
At any rate, that's what you've got to keep in mind-- the whole difficulty of the nearly-impossible to really achieve, "objectivity", which a man raised in the early 20th century, older but still alive during the 60s-- this narrator, this speaker-- would have taken almost for granted.... the impossible ambition of trying to speak for other people, when he himself admitted that he couldn't even begin to listen to their music.
And that's got to be the weakest point in a way-- although in a way it could be clever-- that the only thing that ties the book to together and gives it unity, aside from a common dumping-ground for the characters, is this guy that has almost nothing in common with anyone. It's of course excessively radical to hold something against a man of good will that he can't do anything about, but I only bring it up because it has such an effect on the style-- which is practically the only thing to talk about, aside from the almost innumerable details. It is a very long, slow book, written with an almost imperial style-- about rock music, and rebellion, in the 60s. It's incongruous.
Because for him, the lure was not really the Beatles or the Doors or anything like that, it was the idea to do something epic-- imperial-- universal.... almost missionary. He was *in* the world of the hippies, but he was not *of* it. {"And if my *manner* has been at all reprehensible, then I sincerely apologise." It's hard to believe him a fan of Cream, given all that condescension."}
Torremolinos may be a Spanish party town-- and if Michener does make any definite mistakes, maybe it is that he made the whole thing even more unreasonably long than he had a right to, by having *two* common locations instead of one-- but sometimes it all makes you feel like you have arrived at the party place on Tuesday, only to be made to understand that the party itself doesn't start till Friday.
Or Monday.
In a way it's like "The View From Saturday" writ large-- first one character, then a second, and a third-- but eventually you must stop this, and return to the first one, or else the book cannot have a middle, let alone an end-- only unending length. And by the time I got to the part about folk music-- already enough paper and ink for a fairly long book-- I felt like I could have learned more simply by listening to the Byrds.
(It's certainly prosaic, rather than musical.)
After that I kept reading, but without thinking that I was reading anything extraordinary. And I do not say that the average quality of the writing is less than average, but since the book has such an idea of its own *largeness* I feel the need to point out what problems with quality that there are. You can't write about everything or everybody-- at a certain point it becomes an idle pasttime.
And I didn't want the story to get worse after I lost alot of interest in it-- but that can't erase that it's really *overly epic*. It tried too hard. It could have been worse....
The writing, I mean. It's not like I disagreed-- 'I dislike police action. You see alot of it in the south, and it's always wrong.'
But it was just too exhausting. It tried to do too much-- only some of which was done well.
And I apologize for the length, but, again-- so should he. 700 pages? What is that!

Show Less
LibraryThing member booklover3258
Meh didn't like it. It was boring.


(1971), 751 pages

Original publication date







Original language

Page: 0.3285 seconds