The Drifters roots for the rootless

The Drifters is a big novel about six rootless young people and two much older men whose addresses are poste restante.

White, red and gold text on black are only elements on The Drifters dust jacket.
This copy of The Drifters has circulated.

Initially, it seems a surprising departure for James A. Michener, noted for big, place-based novels, such as Hawaii and The Source, but it becomes an exploration of how Vietnam-era youth became alienated from the societies in which they grew up and what it would take for them to put down roots.

The stories of the six young people are narrated by a 60-something financial deal maker for an insurance company. His work takes him around the world to find good investments.

Divorced and alienated from his own son, Mr. Fairbanks meets some of the youth in the course of his work and is introduced to the others through them.

Fairbanks introduces the young people to ex-Marine Harvey Holt, a communications technician who works in remote places, but comes every year to run with the bulls in Papaloma.

From the dust jacket descriptions, the young people bumming in Europe and North Africa sound like caricatures of ‘sixties figures. By showing Fairbanks’ efforts to understand them, Michener makes them feel very real.

Through The Drifters, I found myself understanding somewhat today’s right-wing youth who want their countries back.

The Drifters: A Novel by James A. Michener
Random House, ©1971, 751 p.
1971 bestseller #8. My grade: A

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The Princess Passes is flawed but fabulous

Every so often a flawed novel comes along that is delightful in spite of its deficiencies.

The Princess Passes is one of those.


The Princess Passes: A Romance of a Motor-Car

by Alice Muriel Williamson and Charles Norris Williamson

Illus. Henry Holt, 1905. 1905 bestseller #9. Project Gutenberg eBook #14740 My grade: C+ .


Having proposed and gotten a kiss, Lord Montague Lane is shocked to hear at dinner the announcement that his love will marry “the richest grocer in the world” instead of himself.

Monty accepts friends’ invitation to let them drive him to Lucerne where he can go on a walking tour down into Italy while his broken heart mends.

Alert readers will see in chapter two how the story will end—and that’s long before they’ve met the Princess.

Though the plot of the romance is familiar, the Williamsons redeem The Princess Passes by presenting Marty as a late-Victorian Rick Steves: an adaptable, uncomplaining traveling companion with a sense of humor.

Monty chats knowledgeably about history, literature, art, architecture, and local cuisine.

His descriptions of Alpine scenes are virtual reality immersions without the fancy headsets. Witness:

The shadows lengthened and thinned, like children who have grown too fast.

Monty is delighted by his guide’s description of a precipice as rocks that “go down immediately, not bye-and-bye.”Photograph of Annecy with moutains in background.

The sense of being there with Monty is heightened by a combination of whimsical drawings and what appear to be vintage photographs.

Such genial companionship transforms a so-so novel into a fictional travelogue that made me wish for a map and a video footage of Monty’s trek.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni