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Lost Kingdom: Hawaii's Last Queen, the Sugar Kings and America's First Imperial Adventure Hardcover – January 3, 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 109 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


A San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller

“A sweeping tale of tragedy, greed, betrayal, and imperialism… The depth of her research shines through the narrative, and the lush prose and quick pace make for engaging reading… absorbing.” —Library Journal (Starred review)

“Richly…sourced… [Siler is] able to color in many figures who had heretofore existed largely in outline or black and white… a solidly researched account of an important chapter in our national history, one that most Americans don’t know but should… an 1893 New York Times headline called [the annexation] ‘the political crime of the century.’” —The New York Times Book Review

“Julia Flynn Siler's Lost Kingdom: Hawaii's Last Queen, the Sugar Kings, and America's First Imperial Adventure is a well-told history of the U.S. acquisition of Hawaii. The central figure is Lili'uokalani, who had the misfortune of being queen when Uncle Sam closed his grasp on the islands.” —The Seattle Times

““[A] well-researched, nicely contextualized history . . . It was indeed, as Siler characterizes it, ‘one of the most audacious land grabs of the Gilded Age.’” —LA Times

“[Julia Flynn] Siler captures… what Hawaii was then and what it has evolved into today. What happened to the islands is known as one of the most aggressive takeovers of the Gilded Age… Siler gives us a riveting and intimate look at the rise and tragic fall of Hawaii's royal family… [It] is a reminder that Hawaii remains one of the most breathtaking places in the world. Even if the kingdom is lost.” –Fortune

“Siler rehearses the dark imperial history of how Americans first arrived in the islands, how they rose in power and how they deposed the queen and took everything… This is mostly the story of white entrepreneurs and missionaries who came and conquered… A well-rendered narrative of paradise and imperialism.” —Kirkus Review

“This imperial land grab in our not so distant past is far too little known. I hope that Julia Flynn Siler’s lively, moving, colorful account will help restore it to the place in our national memory where it ought to be.” —Adam Hochschild, author of To End all Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 and Kings Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa

“Only one American state was formally a sovereign monarchy. In this compelling narrative, the award-winning journalist Julia Flynn Siler chronicles how this Pacific kingdom, creation of a proud Polynesian people, was encountered, annexed, and absorbed.” —Kevin Starr, Historian, University of Southern California, and author of California: A History

“Siler… skillfully weaves the tangled threads of this story into a satisfying tapestry about the late 19th-century death of a small nation [with]… sympathetic detail.” —Publisher’s Weekly

“The takeover of Hawaii is a disturbing and dramatic story, deftly captured by Julia Flynn Siler … [S]he vividly depicts a cast of characters driven by greed, desperation, and miscalculation… How the queen lost her kingdom says as much about America and its new era of overseas expansion as it does about Hawaii.”
—T.J. Stiles, author of The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelious Vanderbilt, winner of the Pulitzer Price and National Book Award

“Julia Flynn Siler’s Lost Hawaii is a riveting saga about Big Sugar flexing its imperialist muscle… Its impossible not to be impressed with the breadth of Silers fine scholarship. A real gem of a book.” — Douglas Brinkley, author of The Quiet World: Saving Alaskas Wilderness Kingdom 1879-1960

“Too many Americans forget… our 'island paradise' was acquired via a cynical, imperious land grab… By the 1890s, American businessmen, especially the “sugar kings,” dominated the Hawaiian economy… [C]ombined with the flowering of American naval ambitions, Hawaii’s status as an independent kingdom was doomed. Siler’s narrative concentrates on the efforts of Queen Lili’okalani to stave off American annexation. The missionary-educated [queen’s] efforts to straddle both the modern and traditional Hawaiian worlds proved futile. This is a well-written, fast-moving saga.” —Booklist

About the Author

Julia Flynn Siler is an award-winning journalist. Her book, The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty, was a New York Times best seller. She has written for Business Week and the New York Times, and is now a contributing writer for the Wall Street Journal in San Francisco.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; First Edition edition (January 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802120016
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802120014
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #859,539 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As the author of a book on the history of Hawaiian traditions published by the Bishop Museum, I appreciate a mainland journalist and publisher taking interest in our history. Perhaps their hearts were in the right place, but this book fails on many levels. It contains numerous errors, both major and "minor." Human sacrifices were not made to the goddess Pele (p. xix), and ancient Hawaiians did not have a tradition of bodies lying in state for weeks (21). In recounting the riots after Kalakaua got elected, the author says that the people in the streets rioted against the Legislature which had elected him in "effectively a race riot," implying that the legislators were all haole, but she never talks about the racial makeup of the Legislature. In fact, almost 3/4 of the legislators were Hawaiian. Yes, Kalakaua was preferred by Americans but also by Hawaiians in the Leg. If anything it was more of a class riot than a race one.

More important, this book fails the most critical duty of a history book, which is to place events in context. It fails to do this in two, opposite, ways. First, because the book jumps into the middle of history, it does not explain Hawaiian tradition before white contact. In perhaps an effort to bring that tradition into the narrative, the author makes it sound like the modern Hawaiian kings and queens descended from barbarians and continued to be "uncivilized." One paragraph (31) begins by describing the wood-framed home of King Kamehameha IV and his wife, Emma, and ends noting that they wore the latest fashions from London.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The merit of this book is that it tells a story that we all should know more about, vividly and with empathy. It is judicious in presenting what happened without moralizing, taking political sides or putting players into hero and villain categories. This has the merits of letting readers draw the messages out for themselves and having the events encourage interpretation, not any authorial advocacy. It is a sad tale, that needs no embellishing or melodrama; what stands out is almost the inevitability of the decline of royal control and its takeover by one of the imperial powers - Britain, France or Japan. Everything was against Hawaii's retaining real independence, as contrasted to some titular client relationship. All that glorious land, the sugar, the chance for outsiders to grab political influence, the money to be made, and finally the strategic location of the Pearl basin as a deep water port and supply center as the geopolitics of empire spread across the Pacific. The Spanish-American war sealed its doom. As one player noted, when Commerce and Defense came together, Hawaii had no chance: "Annexation is manifest destiny and we are bound to have it."

One of the attractions of the book is that the tale is very different from, certainly, what I expected and, probably, for most general readers. It's centered on the kings and queens of Hawaii who were caught up in the drift of historical forces and their interactions with the power players in the game about who would have real authority. These royals were not the stereotypical war paint, girth and feathers of so many images. Hawaii was a sophisticated society, with well-educated and cosmopolitan leaders. The palace had electricity years before the White House. The elite travelled widely, and was urbane and educated. They met with U.S.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Lost Kingdom" by Julia Flynn Siler tells the sad history of Hawaii's subjugation by sugar planters and its annexation by the United States in the 19th century. Ms. Siler has extensively researched the most relevant people and events to help bring us back to an unique time and place that has passed into memory. Written with precision, perceptiveness and humanity, Ms. Siler's fascinating book should appeal to everyone interested in U.S. history and the Hawaiian islands.

Ms. Siler centers her narrative around the remarkable family and person of Lili'uokalani, who was born in 1820 and served as Hawaii's last reigning queen. Without overtly romanticizing the native people, Ms. Siler does suggest that the Hawaiians were wholly unprepared for the complexities of western culture. On the one hand, Lili'u's own writings confirm that she whole-heartedly embraced the message of love taught to her in the Christian Missionary schools in which she was raised. On the other hand, Ms. Siler documents how the monarchs who served over the course of Lili'u's lifetime became progressively less effective as they became compromised by western business interests who ceaselessly worked behind the scenes to slowly erode their powers. Ultimately, the humiliating Bayonet Constitution institutionalized a government that was effectively controlled by the sugar barons, leaving Lili'u's brother Kalakaua as a mere figurehead. For her part, Lili'u assumed the throne in 1891 and conspired in a failed counterrevolution in 1895 which led to her imprisonment. In the aftermath of this unrest, the U.S. decided to settle matters permanently by annexing Hawaii in 1898, crushing Lili'u's hopes for justice for herself and her people.

Apart from recounting the facts (which she does extraordinarily well), Ms.
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