Friday, May 14, 2010

Hawaii

Hawaii
Author: James Michener
Fawcett Crest, 1959
1036 pages

I can't believe it's been over a month since I've written a book review. Believe me, it's not because I haven't been reading -- I have -- a very long book!

I'm a fan of historical fiction, and I've heard about Michener all my life, but this was my first book of his. Although I bought Hawaii a while back, it sat on the shelf until I packed my bag for the recent trip. I figured: first time going to Hawaii, first time reading Michener -- and I started reading it on the first leg of the journey. I was sucked in immediately. WOW! Michener knows his stuff! His writing was as amazing as his grasp of history and people.

Hawaii the book starts out with a short chapter explaining how the islands emerged slowly over time from volcanic action. The next chapters are long - hundreds of pages long -- excellent fictional tales of how the first humans might have come to Hawaii from Tahiti, the 19th century Christian missionary and native Hawaiian perspectives, and the Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino immigrant perspectives. Surely it was intentional that the book was first published in 1959, the year Hawaii became the 50th state in the USA.

I'm not exaggerating when I say the human drama in this book is unsurpassed in any other fiction I've ever read! I felt like I was in that tiny boat with the Tahitians when they saw "new" (northern hemisphere) stars for the first time. I was seasick with the missionaries during the month it took them to get around Cape Horn. It was as if I was working alongside the imported workers in the pineapple and sugar cane fields.

Covering the evolution of Hawaii from pre-history to just after World War II, this book is a true epic. Very highly recommended. I'm just sorry this review doesn't do the book justice. Truth is, I'm ready for a short, easy read now!