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The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling the Pacific Paperback – Bargain Price, December 8, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1 edition (December 8, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616842814
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616842819
  • ASIN: B003BVK3QQ
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (108 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,353,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Despite the euphoric title, Oceania as Theroux ( Riding the Iron Rooster ) experienced it was only occasionally a carefree paradise. In the Trobriand Islands, celebrated by anthropologists for their supposed sexual freedom, the novelist and travel writer found prostitution and fear of rape. Samoa struck him as noisy, vandalized, with American-style conspicuous consumption. The intrepid Theroux discussed world politics with the king of Tonga, encountered class consciousness in Honolulu, mingled with street gangs in Auckland, and lived in a bamboo hut in Vanuatu (formerly New Hebrides), where he investigated a cargo cult and rumors of cannibalism. In Australia he braved the Woop Woop (remote outback) to camp with Aborigines. This exhilarating epic ranks with Theroux's best travel books. It is full of disarming observations, high adventure and memorable characters rendered with keen irony. First serial to New York Times Magazine; BOMC featured alternate; QPB alternate.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The best-selling author of My Secret History ( LJ 4/1/89) and Riding the Iron Rooster ( LJ 6/15/88) spent 18 months in a one-man collapsible kayak exploring such exotic Pacific islands as New Zealand, Australia, the Soloman and Cook Islands, Fiji, Samoa, Tahiti, Easter Island, and Hawaii. Never a kind-hearted chronicler of place, he sets out on this voyage in an especially dour mood, leaving behind a failed marriage and expecting to be diagnosed with cancer at any moment. Soon after he escapes the crowded towns of Australia, however, he starts to lose some of his harsh edge and enjoy his travels, which ultimately heal him. A brilliant storyteller with an eye for the absurd, Theroux takes the reader to little-known places where time seems to have stood still and people lead simple lives totally unrelated to 20th-century America. Highly recommended for all libraries. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/92.
- Lisa J. Cochenet, Rhinelander Dist. Lib., Wis.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Paul Theroux's highly acclaimed novels include Blinding Light, Hotel Honolulu, My Other Life, Kowloon Tong, and The Mosquito Coast. His renowned travel books include Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, Dark Star Safari, Riding the Iron Rooster, The Great Railway Bazaar, The Old Patagonian Express, and The Happy Isles of Oceania. He lives in Hawaii and on Cape Cod.

Customer Reviews

This is the third book I have read form this author ..
G. Winn
Sometimes he goes a bit overboard on this: his hostility towards Japanese is remarkable in this book (and not at all as pronounced in later works).
M. A. Krul
I find Paul Theroux's travel books to be a delight to read, and Happy Isles of Oceania is one of my favorites.
Fenster

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Fenster on January 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
I find Paul Theroux's travel books to be a delight to read, and Happy Isles of Oceania is one of my favorites. Reeling from a split with his wife, PT begins his journey on a book tour in NZ and Australia, and then travels around much of Oceania. He kayaks and camps on most of the islands, and makes many discoveries about the various people and cultures. Most notable is the natives' consistent use of the ocean as a toilet and a garbage dump. He hikes in NZ's southern alps; explores the Aussie bush; attends the unusual Yam-festival in the Trobriands; meets the King of Tonga; insults a politician from NZ; plays Robinson Crusoe for a week; contracts a disease; gets stung by jellyfish; makes friends; drinks kava; wonders what drew Robert Louis Stevenson to Samoa and Paul Gaugain to Tahiti; and visits a Hawaiian island that few are allowed on. If you like PT's other travel books, you'll love this one. If you haven't read any, this is a great one to start with.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 18, 1997
Format: Paperback
Mr Theroux did it the hard way in a collapsible kayak but his own emotional turmoil alienated him from the beauty through which he struggled. His description of the physical environment was, at times, piercingly accurate but his perception of it appeared to be distorted by chronic loneliness and a dismal lack of self esteem; indeed most references to the humans he tried to avoid were severely skewed toward the sinister. I have lived and worked in many of the places he visited yet never experienced the kind of desperation he exudes. The culture of the South Pacific is highly developed and far more complex than the "paradise" European Artists and glossy brochures would leave you to believe - it's attractiveness is as much social as visual, but a deeper understanding is required . Mr Theroux's tortured emotions have spilled onto the page to the detriment of journalistic accuracy. Some may think this adds to the charm of his story; to me it represents a vaguely cathartic voyage through personal misery rather than an intelligent portrayal of a part of our world that is simply sublime. The prose is polished by skill but this is most definitely not the South Pacific of a relaxed and rational mind
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Douglas J. La Rose on December 12, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Before reading this book, I read through some of the reviews on here. Needless to say, I had the preconceived notion that this book was going to be the diatribe of a misanthropic, bitter wanderer. Although there are some moments where Theroux gets carried away with unkind portraits - his descriptions of Tongans and Samoans, for example - he is not the monster that many of the reviews here paint him as. Not everybody can be happy all the time, and that's more or less how he tells the story.

If you have never read Paul Theroux, then perhaps you will be a bit shocked at his raw cynicism. I, for one, am a big fan. This is the blood and guts of world travel. Nobody can be completely open to a new culture or worldview, and certain things are bound to be annoying. The entire adventure of his literary tour in Australia, for example, points out the nagging, dragging questions of people unfamiliar with his work yet trying to conduct journalistic interviews. It isn't until he is rumbling over the outback that he meets a rural Australian who knows and admires his work - rather unexpectedly, at that. Also, one must remember that Theroux puts it right on the table that he is going through some serious issues in his life - a rough marriage break up, health issues, and feelings of alienation - and is removing himself from the mundane to paddle away his problems.

I, for one, feel like this is one of Theroux's finest books. It is devoid of a real theme and lets you paddle alongside Theroux and his emotional travails. I've traveled a bit in Melanesia, and I find his descriptions to be quite apt. Trouble is everywhere in paradise. Murky, trashed lagoons and quarreling kin networks. Bugs, nagging children, and hustlers. But also, there is the hospitality, the betel nut, the amazing conversations, the unique and unexpected characters and, of course, the bleeding sunsets and turquoise, coral-studded seas.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Troy Parfitt on December 14, 2011
Format: Paperback
I'm a big fan of Paul Theroux, at least his travel literature (the only novel of his I've read is Waldo, his debut, which, despite moments of hilarity, doesn't quite come off). In the travel genre, I've read his The Great Railway Bazaar, The Kingdom by the Sea, The Pillars of Hercules, Dark Star Safari, Riding the Iron Rooster, and Ghost Train to the Eastern Star.

The Great Railway Bazaar is a masterpiece, the others merely very good to outstanding. Time magazine called The Happy Isles of Oceania (1992) "possibly his best," and I wondered, as I took up the book, whether this were overstatement or requisite gushing, the deification of another American intellectual. But Happy Isles really is possibly his best - possibly. It's certainly his most unique. Theroux has become famous for being "that travel writer who travels by train," yet here he explores 51 Pacific islands mainly by foot and collapsible kayak. He could have rented cars (and he did, occasionally) and trudged around the more developed areas (he does, sometimes), but no, this author is prone to doing things the hard way - exploring the middles of myriad nowhere, and even setting up camp - and the reader is rewarded for it.

Happy Isles is divided into four happy parts: Meganesia (New Zealand and Australia), Melanesia (the Trobiands, the Solomons, Vanuatu, Fiji), Polynesia (Tonga, Western Somoa, American Somoa, Tahiti, the Cook Islands, the Marquesas, and Easter Island), and what Theroux calls Paradise (the Hawaiian Islands). The isles are diverse, yet similar. Words have travelled thousands of kilometers, and the writer talks about how most islanders have a sense of family, of connectedness.
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