Big news! LibraryThing is now free to all! Read the blog post and discuss the change on Talk.
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling the…

The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling the Pacific (1992)

by Paul Theroux

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,1971811,155 (3.72)36
Account of the travels of an internationally acclaimed, award-winning author among the islands of the Pacific, including New Zealand and Australia. Gives detailed descriptions of the people and places he encountered and his reactions to his new surroundings. Includes maps. The book proved controversial in New Zealand, where some readers reacted against portraits of people Theroux encountered there. His other books include TThe Mosquito Coast' and TRiding the Iron Rooster'.… (more)
Recently added byCarmelreader, ahrwn, private library, EagleRedTeddy, aaronmerrick, Greenedoug81, Skp4k, Peter_Adkins
Legacy LibrariesJuice Leskinen

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 36 mentions

English (16)  Dutch (2)  All languages (18)
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
I tend to have a nonfiction book on the go with a fiction...read your daily chapter of the n/f then you can indulge in the latter. It says something about Mr Theroux' writing abilities that I shelved the novel (and it was a great novel!) to immerse myself in his travels around Australia, NZ and the various islands of the Pacific, culminating in Easter Island and Hawaii.
It's never boring. I'm trying to work out why he succeeds where other travelogues can be SO turgid. For a start, the whole adventure revoves around the author- HIS mindset, experiences at sea, interaction with locals and other tourists. It keeps the reader involved ...too much factual commentary can be like looking at someone else'soverly extensive holiday snaps...a bit of a yawn.
It's extremely funny too, as he delves into both the urban and the off the beaten track. Even a volcano is brought entertainingly to life:
"In the distance I could hear the volcano grumbling and eructating, the amplified belches like those of a fat man after an enormous meal; and these sounds of digestion were accompanied by distant crepitating rumbles like those of loosened bowels. The expression 'bowels of the earth' just about summed it up."
I think this is the apogee of travel writing. I shall be reading more of his works. ( )
  starbox | Jan 30, 2020 |
The third time I’ve read the book, and I’ve enjoyed it each and every time. Thoreau is seen as caustic by many, but tis those very same attitudes that make the book so interesting. For example, his knock on the Japanese is both contemplative and fully warranted.
He does not cover the full range of the Pacific, but does a good job of the islands he does get to. Having worked and/or traveled to three of his destinations, his observations seem justifiable to me....maybe I’m also a caustic old-timer....read in Sri Lanka, finished 27.01.2020. ( )
  untraveller | Jan 28, 2020 |
Theroux takes planes, ferries, helicopters, and his kayak around fifty-odd Pacific islands. As usual, he's critical of all he sees, occasionally hypocritical, observant but prone to overgeneralization, often unhappy. But, he experiences a lot, he gets into conversation with a lot of people without taking advantage of them, he's funny. I think what distinguishes this from the previous Theroux I read, "Dark Star Safari," is that Theroux overall very much enjoys his travels through the Pacific, and doesn't want them to end. The final set piece, of a total eclipse in Hawaii, is a little awkward, but still a cute ending.

> Paddling along, the sound of the paddle or the slosh of the boat would startle the fish, and they would leap from the water and skim across the waves, shimmying upright, balancing on their tails – more than one, often eight or ten fish dancing across my bow as I paddled towards a happy island.

> “If someone, say your mother, gets bad sick, you feed your pig a lot of food. Get him fat.” “Because you might need him for your mother’s funeral?” “Right.” I could just imagine a sick Tongan’s sense of doom when he or she looked out the hut window and saw the family pig fattened. “Also your horse.” “To be in the funeral procession?” “Not the procession but the feast. We eat the horses.”

> Even with my stinging arm in this choppy sea, I would rather be here among the cathedral-like contours of the cliffs on this high island than seeing its architectural equivalent in Europe – and I knew that the next time I saw Westminster Abbey or Notre-Dame I would be instantly reminded of the soaring Na Pali coast and miss it terribly. ( )
  breic | Aug 23, 2019 |
Paul's voyage and writing meandered around the Pacific, not telling much of a story. ( )
  addunn3 | Aug 7, 2017 |
Reading this book saved me a lot of time and money as the further I read, the more I knew that the "happy isles" of Oceania were not for me. Paul Theroux has become my trusted travel advisor. ( )
  pbjwelch | Jul 25, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
A sense of being beyond the reach of civilization comes when, in his intrepid kayak, off Easter Island and between the rock-battering surf and the Pacific, Theroux removes his headphones, ``hears the immense roar of waves and the screaming wind,'' and is terrified. A vast and contemplative book, seeing the ``Pacific as a universe, and the islands like stars in all that space.'' Informative not only for the voyager, but also for those wanting a new perspective on the Western continents of home. (Sorely lacking a map.)
added by John_Vaughan | editKirkus (Jul 21, 1992)
The grand tour of Oceania ends with Mr. Theroux describing travel writing as "a horrid preoccupation that I practiced only with my left hand." He then proceeds to make the claim that "I was not sure what I did for a living or who I was, but I was absolutely sure I was not a travel writer." "The Happy Isles of Oceania," with its studiously cynical vision of paradise lost, should make excellent reading for those people who don't want to travel or don't like to travel. It will reassure them that it is best to stay at home and not think too much about how else they might lead their lives. Paul Theroux has long since mastered the craft of writing, but, after finishing this book, I found myself wondering if he will ever master the fine art of travel.
added by John_Vaughan | editNY Times, Eric Hansen (Jul 19, 1992)
One journalist has cast doubt on Theroux’s account of his dinner with Dame Cath because he had neither tape recorder nor notebook at hand. However, speaking as one of his victims, I have news on that score. I ran into Paul Theroux in Port Moresby in 1991 and spent a few hours with him in shops looking at carvings, which I was there researching at the time. We chatted for over an hour, said our good-byes, and I thought no more of it.

What an bracing little shock then to find myself in this book. I have a different name and the place of our encounter has been changed, but Theroux has managed to record with uncanny accuracy what I told him. I imagine he holds conversations long enough in his memory to write them down as soon as he is alone. My page in The Happy Isles leaves me both astonished and mildly embarrassed. Did I say that those villagers on one occasion I recounted to him “almost shat in their pants”? Well, uh, I did. People who loose their tongues in the presence of writers have no right to complain.

added by SnootyBaronet | editThe Press, Denis Dutton

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Paul Therouxprimary authorall editionscalculated
Davids, TinkeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
God bless the thoughtful islands
Where warrants never come;
God bless the just Republics
That give a man a home...

Rudyard Kipling, The Broken Men
Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles...

Tennyson, Ulysses
Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Voor Mee Ling Loo en Sheila Donnelly
First words
Er was in de Engelse taal geen goed woord voor dit hopeloze afscheid.
There was no good word in English for this hopeless farewell.
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language
Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Canonical DDC/MDS

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Quick Links

Popular covers


Average: (3.72)
1 4
1.5 3
2 13
2.5 2
3 59
3.5 15
4 101
4.5 5
5 44

Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

» Publisher information page

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 146,640,934 books! | Top bar: Always visible