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Letters from Hawaii

3.60  ·  Rating Details  ·  297 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews

The Huck Finn of foreign correspondents provides a colorful account of old Honolulu, the island nobility, the City of Refuge on the Kona coast, and the active volcano of Kilauea. These selections of Mark Twain's newspaper dispatches are both charming and informative. The light touch of the great humorist is seldom missing as he reveals the "loveliest fleet of islands that

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Published October 31st 2006 by The Audio Partners Publishing Corporation (first published 1866)
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(showing 1-30 of 692)
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May 13, 2014 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this collection up while in Hawai'i after reading Jack London's short stories of the islands written a few decades after Twain's visit. As always, a longer review of this book can be found at
Jan 10, 2013 Betty rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was inspired to read these letters after reading "Princess Ka'iulani, Hope of a Nation, Heart of a People," by Sharon Linnea. That book tells the story of the end of Hawaii's monarchy & the annexation of our 50th state. It made me sick to read how the annexationists, mainly Sanford DOLE - Dole Pineapples - forced the royalty out of their country & took their land for the US.

I hate the Manifest Destiny movement, thinking one culture is "destined" to inherit the earth. The empire-buildi
My husband and I having recently got tickets for the whole family to go to Hawaii, I thought, "what better way to prepare for my trip than to read some 120-year-old travel writing?" Actually, since I love Mark Twain, and I do believe that a little historical perspective is a good way to prepare for travel, I did think it would be useful to read Mark Twain's Letters from Hawaii before my trip.

Mark Twain's voyage -- says the introduction -- was paid for by one of the San Francisco newspapers, and
Sep 26, 2008 Nancy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a slow read, but worth it. My husband and I visited Hawaii in January and were surprised to find out about its disturbing history: American businessmen bought the land for pennies, took advantage of the natives, and then overthrew their legal government. Twain's book, actually a compilation of essays written for the Sacramento newspaper when he visited Hawaii as a young man, brings to life portions of this upsetting history. It is difficult to read this American literary hero encouraging ...more
Aug 12, 2011 Katrin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dies ist eine ganze Serie von Berichten aus Hawaii, die Mark Twain 1866 fortlaufend in einer amerikanischen Zeitung veröffentlichte. Damals gab es dort noch die Monarchie, und Twain erzählt u.a. von den diesbezüglichen Ritualen der Eingeborenen. Die Landschaft beschreibt er ähnlich, wie sie noch heute sein muss -- tolle tropische Vegetation, blaues Meer, und einen Ausflug zum großen Vulkan. Für mich, die ich mich brennend für Hawaii interessiere, alles sehr interessant. Es ist auch mit einem gew ...more
Apr 12, 2016 Robert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Picked this book up at a store in Hawaii traveling with my wife. It was fun to read about what Hawaii was like back in the 1800's and to experience what it is like now. Somethings change, some things remain the same. Mark Twain means that it is very well written and contains some of his famous humor.
Gary Lewis
"They are a strange race, anyhow, these natives. They are amazingly unselfish and hospitable. To the wayfarer who visits them they freely offer their houses, food, beds , and often their wives and daughters. If a Kanaka who has starved two days gets a hold of a dollar, he will spend it for poi, and then bring in his friends to help him devour it. When a Kanaka lights his pipe, he only takes one or two whiffs and then passes it around from one neighbor to another until it is exhausted. The exampl ...more
Mar 05, 2015 Diane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Early Twain, before he fully developed as a writer. But interesting description of Hawaii in the mid 1860s and insight into how it was viewed by haoles who like, Twain, were convinced of its economic importance.
Alexander Penn
This is basically a travelogue circa the 1860's of Twain's time in Hawaii. An interesting picture of the time period, with some history, the industry in place, and injections of his incredible wit throughout. There's an abridged version of the Letters, which I assume are more of a distillation of the wit and less of the travelogue-ness. At times I wished I'd chosen the abridged version, but in the end it was worth it to see the entire picture.
Georgia Gross
Twain spent two years in the mid-1860s on the islands. He sent many missives back to the United States detailing trade practices, behavior of the indigenous peoples (whom he mostly refers to as Chinese), the delicious and unique foods, and general life in the tropics. Many of his letters were rejected by certain publications due in part to an effort to keep the sugar trade practices a secret. Other letters were simply saved by friends and acquaintances and also never published. There have been g ...more
Twain's observations on people and geography are always a treat.
He shares some views which (surprise, surprise) we find politically incorrect today about native Hawaiian culture, such as saying the revival of certain lost traditions was backward and ruinous.
Personally, I would rather hear challenging opinions from a knowledgeable person than knee-jerk, politically-correct pronouncements from an ignoramus.

The account of the sailors who survived over 40 days at sea in lifeboats and landed on one o
Apr 15, 2016 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love Mark Twain's travel books. Very interesting how travel has changed over the years. It was interesting to see Hawaii through Twain's eyes and how different/same it is too.
Jan 22, 2009 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting read. Journalism though. You can see the authors style and wit come through, but the content keeps things dry. What I found most interesting was the historical angle. It felt a bit like going through a time warp. Interesting also was the Big Business influence in the letters. Obviously the author knew where his bread was buttered. At times it almost felt like a fact finding mission of the Better Business Bureau of San Francisco.
Pure Twain enthusiast will like it, as will those of
Jun 09, 2015 ems rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
hawaii pt 4

interesting only historically
Jun 04, 2013 Kirsten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had a lot of fun reading this, as we visited almost all the same places, 150 years or so later. Because of the irreverence of his novels, I was surprised by his fondness for the missionaries and their civilizing influence. The introduction says many of his observations from this trip were translated into "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court," which I now feel I should reread. Despite the cultural bias, I enjoyed his keen humor and observation, and the historical perspective it gave me ...more
Tom Kalinosky
Interesting from the standpoint of Twain's very early writing and how it developed. As a series of letters, it obviously doesn't have a plot. Some letters were a lot more interesting than others, so don't I was surprised to find myself skimming through parts. I thought the best parts were about the natives' story of what led up to Captain Cook's death, and the shipwrecked crew that came ashore. The description of his trip to the volcano was stunning to me. His sense of humor comes through loud a ...more
Sep 18, 2013 Sam rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs, hawaii
There are some great sentences, and the explanation of The Sandwich Islands' economy of the time is also illuminating. But I was hoping for more on the islands' history, in particular more on their ore-European history. Perhaps not much was known of that when Twain was writing. He also seemed to have comparatively little interaction with local people, of any ethnicity. I didnt find it very easy to get captivated by and was left feeling like I'd had a meager supper....
May 12, 2008 Annie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Picked this up many years ago at a used book store in San Diego, and finally got around to reading it this year. Besides intensifying my budding love for the Sandwich Islands, I liked getting a feel for that time in the 19th century.

It's a book best read in bits and pieces as the visual descriptions and narrative are broken up with patches of historical fact. While not exactly relevant in the modern world, hearing about agriculture and economics is interesting in its own right.
Jun 30, 2011 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting snapshot of Hawaii through letters Twain wrote for the San Francisco newspaper, with a primary goal of sparking American business interest in Hawaii. His imaginary friend Brown is annoying and I didn't think contributed much to the "reporting." Of course, Twain is a great writer and his humor shines through in spots. The highlight of the book is his accidental exclusive on the shipwrecked crew that washed ashore in Hawaii after their ship burned. High drama.
Apr 29, 2009 Andrea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is Twain at his sarcastic, anti-imperialist best. There is a long passage about Hawaiian sugar production that I skimmed, and he has (some of) the typical prejudices of his time concerning Western culture and values, but his observations about Hawaiian politics and his descriptions of a pre-tourist Hawaii are insightful. Also,of course, there is his self-deprecating humor. His description of horseback riding in the mountains had me laughing out loud.
Dec 20, 2010 Brian rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Twain's descriptions of Hawaii from 150 years ago are interesting. His perceptions of the physical landscape are enjoyable and resonate 150 years later. However, his descriptions of Hawaiians and Hawaiian culture are usually insulting. It makes me wonder how much of his opinion were his own observations or just prejudiced views provided to him by other Americans, or was some of it embellished for his newspaper audience?
Gilbert Gastelum
Over all letters from hawaii by mark twain was kind of interesting and adventurous story, beacuse its cool too know that a person that is a newspapaer consultent decides to travel to hawaii and writes some sort of letters from the newspaper dispatch. Another thing i found that was interesting while writing mark twain would example about everything happening around island of honolulu hawaii for the best or he worse.
Jane G Meyer
Sep 12, 2007 Jane G Meyer rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hawaii folk/Twain folk
Shelves: adultnon-fiction
This was an interesting read, since I just returned from Hawaii, and because I love Twain. Two things struck me the most--One, that those letters, with all their silliness and sarcasm were published in a newspaper, and two, to read of the state of mind those days, the prejudices, and cultural and societal viewpoints... much has changed since his time.
Tiah Keever
Jan 27, 2010 Tiah Keever marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
So far I learned that mark twain rode around Oahu on a horse. this is of interest as I am currently in Oahu and couldn't imagine doing such a thing. There was a funny part in the intro though about how it is odd that the oranges are imported from California-and this is back in 18something or other...but they are still importing oranges from Cali.
An interesting look at Twain as an early writer. There are nuggets of his future self in here, but rather uneven on the whole. I bought this years ago on vacation in Hawaii and pulled if off the shelf when I was looking for something new to read. Worth the read, but has only glimpses of the writer Twain would later become.
Jan 31, 2012 Sarah is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I can't wait for these small serving sizes of Twain wit! He must have entertaining things to say about Hawaii - both the native and tourist sides. I am prepared, though, for the expected uncomfortable undertones of Eurocentrism and racism. I had to actively ignore that vein in _Innocents Abroad_. THEN it was enjoyable.
Feb 03, 2013 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Who knew the card game Euchre was popular in 1866 when Mark Twain learned the game to pass the time on a
steam ship traveling from San Fran to Honolulu, Hawaii. A young Mark Twain traveled to Hawaii and shared his
observations about the islands, the missionaries, sea disaster, the kings, the whaling industry.
Bob Richard
Mar 31, 2009 Bob Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
A very interesting look at Hawaii in the 1860's with the whit if Mark Twain. The book is actually a compilation of letters he wrote during his trip to the Sacramento Union newspaper. Hawaii was a very different place 140ish years ago, it was not the tourist destination that we associate with Hawaii today.
Feb 21, 2013 Wendy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
His explanations of the customs of Hawaii reveal as much about his culture as those of Hawaii, and since many years have passed since his letters, both cultures are essentially foreign. It is fascinating for those who love history.
Todd Martin
Jul 29, 2012 Todd Martin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
Though written fairly early in his career as a way to pay for his trip to the islands, Letters from Hawaii exhibits Twain's forte for story telling and humor. There's also a bit of history mixed in, making it informative as well.
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Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He is noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), called "the Great American Novel", and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876).

Twain grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, which would later provide the setting for Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. He apprenticed with a printer. He also work
More about Mark Twain...

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