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Hawaii Paperback – July 9, 2002

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Editorial Reviews


“Wonderful . . . [a] mammoth epic of the islands.”The Baltimore Sun
“One novel you must not miss! A tremendous work from every point of view—thrilling, exciting, lusty, vivid, stupendous.”Chicago Tribune
“From Michener’s devotion to the islands, he has written a monumental chronicle of Hawaii, an extraordinary and fascinating novel.”Saturday Review
“Memorable . . . a superb biography of a people.”Houston Chronicle

From the Inside Flap

In Hawaii, Pulitzer Prize?winning author James Michener weaves the classic saga that brought Hawaii?s epic history vividly alive to the American public on its initial publication in 1959, and continues to mesmerize even today.

The volcanic processes by which the Hawaiian Islands grew from the ocean floor were inconceivably slow, and the land remained untouched by man for countless centuries until, little more than a thousand years ago, Polynesian seafarers made the perilous journey across the Pacific and discovered their new home. They lived and flourished in this tropical paradise according to their ancient traditions and beliefs until, in the early nineteenth century, American missionaries arrived, bringing a new creed and a new way of life to a Stone Age society. The impact of the missionaries had only begun to be absorbed when other national groups, with equally different customs, began to migrate in great numbers to the islands. The story of modern Hawaii, and of this novel, is one of how disparate peoples, struggling to keep their identity yet live with one another in harmony, ultimately joined together to build America?s strong and vital fiftieth state.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 937 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; Reprint edition (July 9, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375760377
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375760372
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (682 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,393 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

133 of 134 people found the following review helpful By Nina M. Osier on May 3, 2006
Format: Paperback
This, as far I'm concerned, is the ultimate "family saga" novel. Some call it Michener's master work, and I wholeheartedly agree with that assessment.

HAWAII follows an organizational pattern familiar to readers of Michener's other huge historical novels. First he tells the geological and prehistoric story of the region that provides the book's setting. Next, he introduces characters from early in that region's history - characters whose descendants people the book's subsequent sections, joined by a new group of immigrants as each of the tale's installments unfolds. The Polynesians - the New England missionaries, whalers, and merchants - the Chinese - and finally, the Japanese, arrive in different eras and under different circumstances. Each of these groups finds its own place, or rather creates its own place, in a society that's both challenged and enriched by Hawaii's ever-increasing racial and cultural diversity.

Genealogy ties this vast story's threads together, yet each of its major characters exists as a memorable individual in his or her own right. The author never allows his book's colorful setting, or the exciting backdrop of world events against which local happenings play out, to upstage those characters - nor does he let them blur into each other, which could easily happen with this many for both author and reader to keep straight. But what reader could possibly forget the great Alii Nui Malama, no matter how many descendants of the original Malama wind up sharing her name? Who could forget missionary wife Jerusha Bromley Hale, or the Chinese concubine whose true name her hundreds of descendants never know?

HAWAII heads the short list of books that I can read over and over, and always find fresh. A master work, indeed!
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98 of 105 people found the following review helpful By Joanna Daneman #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 28, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Michener, the supreme storyteller, created some really memorable characters in this monster of a novel. I'm re-reading this again (2014) and immediately, I was pulled into the story and it's as vivid as watching a film. The scenes on board the "Thetis" trying to double Cape Horm in the face of building-high waves practically made me seasick. The landing on Hawaii and the scene where the missionaries meet Queen or Alii Nui Malama, a 6'4", 350lb woman whose very size is a sign of her royalty is like no other I can think of in a novel. And it just gets better. The beginning of the book, as is Michener's custom, starts with an ancient and natural history of the islands themselves.

The genre of blockbuster historical novels can seem somewhat dated (viz. the mammoth novels of Mitchell, Ferber, McCullough, Caldwell and Follett) but they are definitely delicious if you get a taste for them. Dated or not, Hawaii is a gripping tale of not-so-angelic missionaries, struggling immigrants and early Polynesian settlers. The characters are absolutely unforgettable. Some of them are detestable. But that adds to the drama--strong emotion gets you so involved.

My favorite section of the book is still the story of the missionaries running headlong against the traditions of the Polynesian people, whether insisting they wear confining clothing in the tropical heat, or that they should quit their practical tradition of dancing, swimming and surfing in the buff. The missionaries stubbornly eat dried apples shipped to them across the sea, and scorn the richly nutritious native fruits and vegetables unfamiliar to them. They wilt in their long underwear, donned by the season.
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124 of 136 people found the following review helpful By Lilly Flora VINE VOICE on November 16, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This may have been the first adult novel I ever read. I was 13, September 11th had just happened and my father was in a hotel across the street from the pentagon. I didn't know if he was ok until an hour after the plane hit, and when I found out I collapsed. He was fine, and I was exhausted from worrying. He had given me this book a week before, saying he read it when he was 20 and had surgery soon after and hallucinated that he relived the entire book in the recovery room.

Since this book is several million years long, that's quite an experience, as is reading this book. I've real quite a bit of Michener's works, and this is buy far his best. For one, there are only 17 pages about geology, not several hundred as in other books. For another, the clear connections of family through the generations in this book really make you know the main characters. For another, it's clear he loves Hawaii, as does anyone who's been there.

This book is the history of Hawaii. It's well arranged, first there are 17 pages of geology, then the Polynesian settlers get 100 pages. Next, we head forward a thousand years and the first Christian missionaries from the east coast arrive (and insisted on wearing wool clothing!) Then came the Chinese, and leprosy. Next the Japanese, and Pearl Harbor. Finally, the golden man emerges a mix of all these races and a good dash of Aloha spirit. Each section follows one or two families who intermix with those already established and intermarry and have children.

This book is fascinating. Every part of it excellent, although I especially love the missionaries, the Chinese family (they're just great characters and you learn so much about Chinese culture) and the descriptions of the Japanese American soldiers fighting in WW2.
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