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Hawaii by James A. Michener

Hawaii (original 1959; edition 1986)

by James A. Michener

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3,000462,940 (4.02)139
This epic novel traces the origins and history of the islands of Hawaii, from their volcanic birth, through the first arrivals of humans from Polynesia, followed by European sailors and missionaries, then Chinese and Japanese laborers, to the modern blending of cultures.
Authors:James A. Michener
Info:Fawcett (1986), Edition: Reissue, Paperback
Collections:Your library

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Hawaii by James A. Michener (1959)

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What an epic! This told the story of Hawaii from its formation by volcanoes to settlement by the people of Bora Bora and Tahiti through Statehood in 1959. I learned so much history. I was surprised at the hatred the Chinese had for the Japanese and visa versa. Both groups and the whites had the same hatred for the native Hawaiians. I was also surprised to learn that the genealogical history of the Hawaiians was only about 20% Hawaiian and the rest Chinese, Japanese and the descendants of missionaries as many of the native Hawaiians were killed off by measles or influenza. Very informative chapters on the Molokkai leper colony, too. A tad boring near the end with the politics of statehood. This rounded out the story for me as I had visited Hawaii in 2017. Great read! I used both audio and paperback for this read. 936 pages ( )
  tess_schoolmarm | Sep 27, 2019 |
As is typical of Michener's works, this was a long novel. While this is a novel, it attempts to tell the history of Hawaii by following several families through roughly 150 years the islands history. The first chapters explain how the islands were created by volcanic eruption and how later Polynesians crossed the Pacific Ocean from Bora Bora and Tahiti looking for new lands to settle.

The early outsiders who discovered Hawai were the whalers who came to the islands to resupply and enjoy the women. When the American missionaries arrived with their strict moral views, conflict occurred. Other chapters covered the arrival of American agriculture methods that demanded a great number of labourers thus immigration from China and Japan was encouraged. Hawaiians were deemed too unreliable as agricultural workers.

The novel moves through WW II and Pearl Harbour including the permitting of Japanese men to join the US Armed Forces to fight the Axis which they did with much honour in Italy and Germany.

On my several trips to Hawaii I had learned of the sugar companies involvement in the annexation of the Islands by the United States an action that many native Hawaiians have not forgotten or forgiven. ( )
  lamour | Aug 6, 2019 |
My first Michener did not disappoint. This is a sweeping account of the history of Hawaii up to statehood. Michener is surprisingly ethnically sensitive. He also does a good job of writing about how each group shaped the islands rather than the Great Man theory of history. ( )
  Seafox | Jul 24, 2019 |
Michener is known for his research when doing historical novels. This is no different. The book starts with the volcanic rising up of the island chain. It then hypothesizes about the influx of the original inhabitants from other Polynesian islands and goes onto tell of the American missionaries and merchants. As well as the immigration of Chinese and Japanese to work on the sugarcane and pineapple plantations and so forth. Each part of the book is connected in some way to the next. It's a thick book but well worth the time to read. ( )
  krgulick | Jun 19, 2019 |
This had been on my TBR shelf since 2012 and I finally decided to read it. I like to read at least one, if not more, deep and many paged book a year and this was the one. I took my time as it was not a simple plot but rather an interweaving of a number of plots. To me it was as if I was reading 5 books under one cover. Each could have almost stood alone as one book, but yet there were references to the previous 'books.'

The first was the formation of the islands, before there was any animal or human life. It was a bit drawn out for me. Describing the volcanic action that caused the build up of layers, creating the actual islands.

The second was the arrival of the people and the history and reason for them to come to the islands and establish themselves. This was the story of the people that became the inhabitants of the islands and became known as the Hawaiians. How they came to be there, their previous history and home. It again was a bit drawn out, but I figured that that was to impress the difficulty of their journey from their original home to this new one. The people were the ancestors of the Kanakoa family.

The third was the arrival of the missionaries who came to 'civilize' the 'savages' by introducing the Hawaiians to Christianity and its lifestyle. Changing the original inhabitants' lives and beliefs to align with theirs. This involved the Hale, Whipple, Hewlett, Janderses and Hoxworths families. These families became the leaders and controllers of the islands. They basically overtook the Hawaiians' place.

The fourth was the arrival of the Chinese and Japanese, who were brought over to work as slaves in the sugar cane and pineapple fields. Enticed with the story that they would only be there for a short while, save up a good sum of money and return to their homelands. Their lives were not easy, nor were they able to save up a good sum of money to return to their homelands. This brought in the the Kee family (China) and Sakagawa family (Japan).

The fifth covers these families and how they have inter-meshed through business, land ownership and marriage. How their cultures existed side-by-side and also combined. It ends in the 1950s, having started in about the 800s.

It is definitely not a quick read. Taking time gave me the ability to think about the people and what was happening to them and their world. I amy not have been there, but I felt that I had a little knowledge of what things may have been like. I don't feel that it was a waste of time to read this. I have read Michener before and know that he does thorough research and his writing is solid.

Yup, a good read for me. ( )
  ChazziFrazz | Oct 3, 2018 |
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Millions upon millions of years ago, when the continents were already formed and the principal features of the earth had been decided, there existed, then as now, one aspect of the world that dwarfed all others.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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