- Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: Fawcett (September 12, 1984)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0449206521
- ISBN-13: 978-0449206522
- Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (139 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #157,506 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Tales of the South Pacific Mass Market Paperback – September 12, 1984
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Praise for James A. Michener and Tales of the South Pacific
“Truly one of the most remarkable books to come out of [World War II] . . . Michener is a born storyteller.”—The New York Times
“Riveting and emotional . . . Ever since James Michener wrote Tales of the South Pacific, the dreamers among us have been searching for our own Bali Ha’i.”—The Washington Post
“Atmospheric . . . [Tales of the South Pacific marks] the beginning of Michener’s long exploration of what happens when cultures connect, or fail to.”—Los Angeles Times
“Few writers changed the face of American fiction as profoundly as did James Michener.”—San Francisco Chronicle
From the Inside Flap
"Truly one of the most remarkable books to come out of the war. Mr. Michener is a born story-teller."
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Winner of the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
Enter the exotic world of the South Pacific, meet the men and women caught up in the drama of a big war. The young Marine who falls madly in love with a beautiful Tonkinese girl. Nurse Nellie and her French planter, Emile De Becque. The soldiers, sailors, and nurses playing at war and waiting for love in a tropic paradise.
Top Customer Reviews
This is not a chronicle of the war itself. It is not a military history, although it is full of military anecdotes. It's a series of loosely connected stories of the prolonged island-hopping campaign across the Pacific, related through the personal experiences of a variety of characters. Michener's emphasis is on the individuality, humor, valor, and idiosyncrasies of the men and women who populated the bases and combat units of the Pacific campaign.
As anyone who has seen the musical "South Pacific" (based on a part of this book) knows, it includes the island natives and expatriates who happened to live in the places where the war was taking place. In reading these stories, you may come to understand why many of the armed forces veterans of the Pacific war were drawn to go back to the islands in later years.
If I were limited to one sentence, I'd say that this book is about everyday Americans doing unusual jobs in exotic places. I like it well enough that I've read it multiple times and consider it a favorite. It's a lot easier reading than many of Michener's later epics, and in my opinion it's as good as anything he's ever written and better than most.
If the reader has expectations of a single-minded patriotic paean to the fighting men of the South Pacific, a close reading of the early chapter, "Mutiny," should dispel any such illusions. Here, as throughout the book, Michener uses nature and the ocean as a test, a touchstone, and a foil--exposing the folly not just of warring nations and military campaigns but of arrogant, imperialist civilizations and many of their prideful citizens. Tony Fry, his anti-authoritarian, compassionate "hero," commits a subversive act that links him with the mutineers on board the Bounty and casts the American command in the role of Bligh and Hitler! In the next story, "Cave," Fry emerges as a war-time philosopher whose meditations on courage move him to acts of selfless, Christ-like charity. In "Boar's Tooth" Fry is able to overcome his resistance to a primitive religious ritual involving pain and sacrifice as he contrasts it with the empty and self-serving practices of modern religion.
The American fighting men and women who come to the South Pacific bring no small amount of baggage from a flawed social order back home, and Michener's heroes are not simply the individuals who perform fearlessly in combat: they're just as likely to be the narrow-minded Americans who are transformed by their experiences in the South Pacific into better human beings. "Our Heroine," the story of Nellie Forbush, is a shocking expose of racism, delivering a reeling blow comparable to explosive moments in Flannery O'Connor or Faulkner. When Nellie learns that her fiance's former lover is dead and rejoices not because a rival has been removed but because a black person has been eliminated, she would seem to be beyond the redemption experienced even by O'Connor's most degenerate souls. But in an earlier story about "the Remittance Man" Michener's narrator has constructed a definition of heroism based on courage and an exclusive vision of the sacred status of all human life, allowing us to see how Nellie's eventual change of heart qualifies her for inclusion among the company of true heroes.
The famous Bali Hai chapter ("Fo' Dolla"), far from an escapist love story, is at once romantic tragedy in the tradition of "Madame Butterfly" and tragicomedy in its portrayal of accessory characters who recall the nurse and friar in "Romeo & Juliet." And once again the narrative's definition of the "heroic" allows us to see the tragedy play out not merely as a tale of star-crossed lovers but as a drama of choices and their painful consequences. In each case the act precedes and produces illumination: Joe Cable's venture into Bali Hai and the Dionysian produces self-discovery because ultimately it becomes a "shared discourse" with his dark-skinned, native lover, who turns out to be a "real person" with a history of her own.
Michener is as likely to locate the heroic away from the war as on island battlefields or the Pacific main, because his real subject is human nature and the courage to live in the face of obstacles both natural and human. To their credit, Rodgers and Hammerstein detected (and partially, if unevenly, captured) the strength in Michener's novel: Each of us has a Bali Hai, and our failures to reach it can be traced as much to failures of courage and vision as to the ironclad circumstances of existence.