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Six Months in the Sandwich Islands: Among Hawaii's Palm Groves, Coral Reefs, and Volcanoes Paperback – June, 1998

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Mutual Pub Co (June 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566470501
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566470506
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 4.2 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #419,520 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
The steamer Nevada left Auckland New Zealand in January of 1873. Onboard are a number of travelers including Isabella Bird, who is traveling for her health. When another passenger takes ill, his Mother asks Isabella to disembark with them at Honolulu so they are not in a foreign land all alone. Thinking she will be there a short while, she actually begins a six-month journey, which she chronicles in a series of unabridged letters to her Sister back home. For those who have visited Hawaii or those who wonder what the islands were like before being annexed to the United States, these writings are pure joy.
Isabella arrives as a foreigner, but in a short time learns of the beauty of the various islands and begins to understand the diverse culture of the people.
She travels as an unescorted woman in a country, which has recently converted from aboriginal customs and inter-island wars, to the relatively peaceful paradise known in modern times. From simple observations of looking down at clouds on Maui at sunrise, to the unexpected earthquakes while standing next to a bubbling caldron of creation itself, you follow her adventures in well-written communications, which inform and entertain.
As she stood in snow, gazing down at the crater 800 feet below her, she wrote "The mystery was solved, for at one end of the crater, in a deep gorge of its own, above the level of the rest of the area, there was the lonely fire, the reflection of which, for six weeks, has been seen for 100 miles."
What she witnessed upon King Lunalilo's arrival in Hilo, brought tears to my eyes. Although they were beginning life under a form of government, the natives treated their king to a touching procession unlike anywhere else in the world.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By jack cheshire on May 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
A beautifully written first hand description of the hawaii of the 18th. century. The book is a series of letters written by a 40 year old english women to her sister in england. During her stay in the islands, she had the opportunity to travel to all of the main islands, and the stories of her experiences are most vividly described. For those of us who love the islands, it's people and their culture this is the book for you.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
Every book by Isabella is an adventure. This book is wonderful to read during and after a trip to the islands. It makes great bedtime reading and is a book that you can stretch out for a long time and read again and again.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Owl on July 10, 2013
Format: Paperback
Among the Victorian aspidistra grew a sub-race of women who swooning with ill-health in their native land, took ship everywhere. Maintaining their British standards as to clothing & tea, they robustly travelled where few Victorian women & not too many men had gone before, scribbling long letters home. Freya Stark perhaps leads the way, but Isabella Bird is right beside her, reporting in from Tibet, Persia, Korea, Japan, and Colorado, among other places. In the 1870s, en route from Australia to San Francisco, she landed in the Hawaiian Islands. From Hawaii, staying longer than she had expected, Bird wrote long, lively letters to her sister, which form the core of this book.

In "Six Months in the Sandwich Islands," Isabella Bird nails the scenery and does well in her De Toqueville-like social, economic, and political reporting. Readers who can cut her some slack in her language & judgments about Native Hawaiians are likely to find the book very good reading. Those who cannot, probably will not be admirers. For instance, "hideous" was among her comments with regard to traditional Hawaiian religious practices. Many, however, of her experiences led to deep appreciation of the courtesy, hospitality, generousity, talents, fine character and other admired qualities of her Native Hawaiian friends. She writes with love, with aloha, about this summer-land and its peoples.

Bird is at her best writing with such detail and unrestrained adjectives that Hawaii stands before you, much of it still as it was 150 years ago, at least on the Big Island where I live. Even Mark Twain in his admirable "Roughing It" doesn't equal Bird's description of her experiences at the ferociously erupting firepit of Kiluaea or at the summit of Mauna Loa.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Those Darn Donkeys! on July 13, 2007
Format: Paperback
The 5 star reviews are correct. This book is interesting from several perspectives:

Women's History; she was quite a gal. Single, traveling alone, great adventures on every page. "Rollicking good time!" is the cliche. She is quickly bored by Honolulu "society" and itches to get moving.

Mores of 19th Century Western (European, British, American) culture in respect to women. The changes Isabella makes as she adapts to new lifestyles.

Personal accounts and insight of historical figures, White and Hawai'ian, and her instincts and frustrations with self-serving individuals of all races. She meets history-altering people mentioned in Shoal of Time, and more importantly, the newer detailed research now being conducted on such recent history, that had been nearly buried. She shares frank insights into character, as she reads it. (Well, politely frank, very carefully worded.)

Detailed account of sugar production.

Detailed accounts of the landscape, especially of the Island of Hawai'i, before nearly everything valuable was obliterated. Sense of place.

Detailed accounts of flora and fauna.

Horse riding styles, quality and treatment of horses. Discussion of a variety of methods of post contact Hawaiian transportation. Foot, horse, ship.

Details of a variety of Hawaiian life styles.

Accounts of mission schools and second generation missionaries.

Enjoy and learn!
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