HAWAII by James A. Michener


A Novel
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This is Michener's most ambitious book, but at times it almost falls of its own weight in the immense scope of time and place and people projected. For here is the story of Hawaii, told in terms of the peoples who made it- and the forces of nature which held it in thrall. While each of the major sections seems at first almost complete in itself, tracing the elements that together brought the islands to fulfillment, actually the people who wove the texture became themselves a major part of it. First- the story of the millions of years before man, as the volcanic islands rose from the sea, fell again, were rebuilt by the coral, by beds of lava, and slowly populated by vegetation, and life, and a passionate, courageous, adventurous people from the lovely Bora Bora. Then- the missionaries- a thousand years later- Calvinists with humorless intent to save these feckless natives from eternal damnation. The Hales, the Whipples, the Janderses, the Haxworths, the Hewlitts --who became the hierarchy. Some remained in the mission field, but many deserted it -- disillusioned, embittered, wearied by the thanklessness of the impossible task of conversion. But they stayed on- as merchants, land owners, progenitors of the Five Families that for generations held the power- socially, politically, economically, though kings came and went, and a people disintegrated. New national groups came- the Chinese first as laborers, then as vital factors in the islands' economy; then the Japanese and the Filipinos. Little by little, through intermarriage, through education, through business endeavors, a new people were formed. The Hawaiians proved a mellow core; but it took a virtual social revolution, two wars, labor upsets, plague, disaster and intrigue at high level and low, to blend a strong people who could prove themselves Americans. It's an enormously interesting story of human beings -- at many levels of struggle --and rewards the very considerable contribution the reader must bring to its reading.
Pub Date: Nov. 20th, 1959
ISBN: 0375760377
Page count: 968pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1959


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