Hawaii. James A. Michener. 1959. 1136 pages. [Source: Library]
First sentence: 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. It was a mighty ocean, resting uneasily to the east of the largest continent, a restless ever-changing, gigantic body of water that would later be described as pacific.
Will Hawaii be the longest book I read this year? That's WAY too early to call. I first decided to pick this one up after watching the film adaptation of Hawaii starring Julie Andrews as one of the missionary wives. The film adaptation covers a little less than one chapter of this one. For those that are curious, this book has SIX (and only six) chapters. The film adaptation keeps some things the same, (Abner Hale is an a**) but varies from the book in many ways.
I would not pick this one up if you are looking for lovable, likable, pleasant, charming characters. The book thrives on conflict and dysfunction. Conflicts between husbands and wives, men and women, parents and children, employer and employee, and perhaps more significantly between races and cultures. The 'native' Hawaiians, the American missionaries, the Chinese, the Japanese, etc. The second chapter is about the original would-be inhabitants who fled Bora Bora and discovered Hawaii. The third chapter is about the arrival of the missionaries. The fourth chapter is about the arrival of the Chinese. The fifth chapter is about the arrival of the Japanese. The sixth chapter is set after the Second World War, and is about the journey to statehood and the synthesis of culture(s), this blending of East and West. The book is also about the conflict between VALUES and morals.
It tackles about a dozen plus subjects--in varying detail--spanning roughly one hundred and fifty years. It uses about a dozen (maybe a little less) families to tell this story of ideas. For example, the descendants of the missionary families stay on in the background for the remaining chapters. The chapters do build on one another.
Business and economics, politics and religion--these are things he covers throughout the book. One of the main questions being -- What is best for Hawaii? Do outsiders do more harm than good? What makes Hawaii, Hawaii?
I thought many of the characters were horrible people. They just weren't likable. Especially some of the men. They were just jerks. It was easy to HATE some of the characters. Some of the scenes were just hard to take. Like when a grandfather takes his thirteen year old (maybe, maybe fourteen year old grandson) to a brothel and pays for him "to become a man." I really didn't want to be there for that--nor did I want to know about how excited the prostitutes were to have such a young client. There were other scenes as well that proved this one was out of my comfort zone.
The language is DEFINITELY not clean.
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