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Tales of the South Pacific
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Tales of the South Pacific

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  9,010 ratings  ·  208 reviews
"Truly one of the most remarkable books to come out of the war. Mr. Michener is a born story-teller."
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Winner of the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
Enter the exotic world of the South Pacific, meet the men and women caught up in the drama of a big war. The young Marine who falls madly in love with a beautiful Tonkinese girl. Nurse Nellie and her French plan
...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published September 12th 1984 by Fawcett (first published 1947)
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Best Historical Fiction
340th out of 4,490 books — 18,054 voters
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Community Reviews

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Ensiform
Easily more than the sum of its parts, this collection of stories is an eye-opening account of life in wartime: not the horrors of war (though there’s a bit of that), but the waiting, the selfless heroism, the bottled-up passion, the thankless endless toil, the vast logistics of a campaign, the suddenness of death and loss and love. The omission of this work from the academic canon is utterly incomprehensible to me; it’s everything that All Quiet on the Western Front is said to be, and more. Mic ...more
Matthew Klobucher
I think this book is a must-read for any American in the post-WWII era. Framed as a collection of loosely-connected short stories, narrated from a single perspectivce, Mitchner weaves together themes of love, loss, and struggle with a lucid and sometimes technical commentary on the American war effort in the Pacific theater. His characters are both intensely human and larger than life, and the developing theme throughout the book is that titanic and often tragic effors contribute to the betterme ...more
Deanne
May 01, 2013 Deanne rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: war
Not at all like South Pacific, no body talking happy talk, no women warbling about washing men out of their hair.
What there is, is a collection of stories, some funny, some tragic and all set in the south pacific. Michener writes well and you begin to care about the men he talks about, many seem disillusioned, far away from home and family and seeming to spend most of the time waiting.
Gale
PASSION AND PENANCE IN PARADISE

Mitchener’s World War 2 collection of short stories remains as vibrant and compelling in terms of human interest today as when it was written. Alternating between the logistics of war with personal suffering and joy, these stories present the reader with a composite of life and death in tropical paradise. Characters popularized in the Broadway musical, South Pacific, appear in several stories in this fascinating patchwork of passion and pathos. As all emotions p
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HA
Interesting. More about the racial, social and sexual mores of the WWII-era than anything else. Compared to similar novels of the era, this one probably seemed a little more jaded, not to mention controversial. A little too much romance in it for me, but maybe that's what his editor thought would be needed to sell the book. Otherwise it would only have been a bunch of stories about Sailors and Marines going nuts from boredom while waiting for another invasion to kick off. All in all, probably th ...more
GymGuy
I will agree with other reviewers that this is a must read for anyone interested in WWII history. I've read reviews where they thought this was a white-wash. First, remember that this won the Pulitzer Prize for literature in 1948. While a great part of Michener's novel is light-hearted, one should take into account that it was published in 1947, just 2 years after the end of the War. Like our military is reluctant to discuss the horrors of the Middle East wars, I'm sure Michener, being a veteran ...more
Kenny
Howard Winant points to the questioning of unchallenged American values—“was the United States really ‘the land of the free, and the home of the brave’? (148)—as the “end of innocence,” led by the black civil rights movement and sympathizers. In his use of the facetious, dramatized, bigoted caricature of a young Midwestern nurse, Nellie Forbush, Michener addresses the end of innocence by calling attention to Nurse Forbush’s ignorant racism through her own absurd, erratic behavior. Specifically, ...more
Heather
I have always wanted to read this, being a HUGE fan of the Rogers and Hammerstein musical adaptation. The only thing I had heard about it was that the adaptation was very loose and that the book was pretty racist, reflecting the times. I found both to be true. It took awhile to get into it, but then you meet such compelling characters as Bus Adams, Luther Billis, and Tony Fry, as well as the narrator, whose voice I thoroughly enjoyed, and you are hooked. It is a book about people, and these peop ...more
Andrew Kraemer
I must say that I really did not enjoy reading this book. It is incredibly slow, is shows a very distorted fairy-taleesque picture of the Pacific theater, and many of the problems in the story, in my opinion, are incredibly mundane.
However, despite disliking the book I respect the role of Tales of the South Pacific in American literary history. Here's why: When this book was released in 1947, it was the book America needed, not the book that best showed life in the Pacific. The American public
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Roxanne Russell
Here's a book I've heard about all my life, maybe more so the musical, and an author who couldn'tbe more popular. He was a favorite of my grandfather's. I get the sense that his narrative voice may have been similar to the voice in my grandfather's head- the same matter-of-fact, US white male dominated world-view that pre-dated the 70's. Yet, still sensitive to all people and empathetic to the human condition. It was interesting to read this just after Guard of Honor- same war, same time period- ...more
Ram
Nice collection of stories.
Not your average wartime book.
This book tells the story of the back waters of the war (literally) .
The people in this book did not see the white of the enemy's eyes.
They did not look death in the eye and hold its glaze.
In most of the stories the enemy is not there.
This is the story of the nurses, the doctors, the supply people, the Seabees (had to google that up), the plantation owners in the remote island, the Island local girls and women. The war stories that are no
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Theophilus (Theo)
Outstanding. My favorite Michener. It won a Pulitzer Prize, what more can I say about it. Mini vignettes about World War II in the Pacific that are funny, ironic, and tragic. How it became a musical I'll never understand. It should have been an epic series like "Winds of War" or "Band of Brothers". Maybe some day. After this I moved on to "Hawaii," "Caravans," "Return to Paradise," "The Source," and of course "The Drifters" among many others. (I was reading these while on active duty in the Air ...more
Kevin
TALES OF THE SOUTH PACFIC by James Michener is a rare book which communicates what it felt like to be involved in WWII. The budding genius author Michener had the privileged viewpoint of being "embedded" with the Navy during the war. He then lightly fictionalizes, organizes, and distills his experiences into 19 highly varied short stories which communicate something about what it felt like, and what it meant.

I am fascinated by WWII and, have read probably a hundred books by historians, memoirs b
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Heidi
I had no idea James Michener could write a page-turner. Why aren't all his books like this? I started the book assuming it would be typical Michener fare: a struggle at times but worthwhile. To my great surprise, I couldn't put it down and finished it in two sittings.

This is a fictionalised set of loosely-connected World War II stories, based, I assume, on Michener's own experiences or the experiences of his comrades fighting in the Pacific. Those who have seen the musical South Pacific will be
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Bertport
Miochener kicks off with a four page piece that characterizes the war in the South Pacific as mostly waiting around, and depicts a general in a sort of innocent humiliation that makes me think of Aphrodite and Ares trapped by Hephaestus in the Iliad - the gods as comic subjects. The next piece is set on Norfolk Island. This one appeals to me, with its pitting of the war imperatives against a beautiful double row of Norfolk Island Pines that holds specific, almost sacred, meaning to the natives. ...more
Christopher Sutch
There are two problems with this collection. One is that it is Michener's first attempt at fiction...and it shows. Some of the stories are mere prose workings of military strategy and campaigns in World War II's South Pacific theater. This is interesting sometimes, but at other times Michener's ham-handed prose turns topics that ought to be exciting into rather bland and boring summaries of events. The second thing that is wrong with this book is that when Michener decides to try to break out of ...more
miriam
yeah, it was good. there were some cute stories, some nail biters, and even some that reached deeper into my consciousness and tried to impress upon it the needlessness of war. but holy shit, it was racist. and what makes this book dangerous is the casualness of it - you fall into the trap of patriotism and don't realize who's being wounded by the celebration of the ol' american fighting spirit.
this book hasn't survived into the modern era, and it shouldn't. i last read a michener book ages ago
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Amit
A strange assortment of stories, set to the backdrop of world-war 2. The author, who was serving in the forces then was placed near Guadalcanal, in south pacific, and the stories center around islands in that part of the world. A very different world-war book. The stories are a slice-of-life.
Tom Barnes
Tales of the South Pacific is about World War II. The collection of stories tells about life in the islands. The Japanese, coast watchers, the milk run, downed airplanes and rescued pilots all combine to tell a compelling story of the time.
Feliks
Extremely engaging. This was the 'unafraid' Michener --an American writer with real power and delicacy; sensibility; thrust and form--before he started down the strange trail of trite and corny "family sagas". Highly recommended.
Neil Crossan
Reading a Michener novel is a rite of passage for most readers, sort of like waiting in line to register for the draft. What .. you don’t have to do that anymore? Crap. (3/10)
Walter
"Tales of the South Pacific" was the first published work of James Michener, who may well be the greatest story teller of the 20th Century. The novel is actually a collection of short stories, linked together by a set of characters serving on a small island in the South Pacific during World War II. I loved this book, mostly because it is what may be the anti-thesis of the war novel. This book does not read like the first 20 minutes of the movie "Saving Private Ryan". It recognizes, as many veter ...more
Laura
Jan 09, 2011 Laura marked it as to-read
Recommended by Alan Brennert, author of Moloka'i.
Robin
This is James Michener’s first book, hammered out on an old typewriter in a Quonset hut on Vanuatu during WWII. He hadn’t written before, but the intense exposure to the pressures of war and Michener’s curiosity about human character under such pressure inspired him to stay up nights on end telling stories. Michener tells the stories of Americans of all military ranks from varied backgrounds and their interactions with each other, island natives, and island colonials. These tales are told in fir ...more
Jack Kirby and the X-man
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Christopher MacMillan
With its technical army-related terms, Michener's dark writing style, and an overwhelming amount of characters, Tales of the South Pacific was not at all the upbeat breeze of a book I had expected it to be based upon the musical. I had first picked this up in October, ploughed through the first four stories, grew frustrated, and put it down. Six months later, I decided to give it another go, and this time - knowing what to expect - I found myself drawn into the exotic world that Michener creates ...more
Kasey Sinclair
This was my first Michener read and admittedly it was a bit slow at times, but I'm glad I perservered and finished the book. Unlike Michener's later books which are epic sagas of more pages than I care to think about, this book is only 384 pages, which is a good starting point for those unfamiliar with the depth of detail Michener is known for.

The book is not one solid story but a series of interwoven short stories based on the lives of military officers stationed in the South Pacific during Wor
...more
Sam Nelson
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Aaron Arnold
Like many people, I've seen and enjoyed the musical South Pacific. However, I had no idea that the musical was for the most part based on two of the short stories ("Our Heroine" and "Fo' Dollah") in this collection, which won a Pulitzer Prize. It takes a while for the collection to build up momentum, but Michener builds a continuity between the stories that ends up being very moving, the alternation of funny bits and serious stories generating a strong emotional rhythm. A good comparison might b ...more
Carl
This book, which was the first winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1948, is a collection of little stories about World War II in the South Pacific. James Michener was in the U.S. Navy, and traveled widely through the area, giving him a unique view of various places, people, and events, and these must have been quite fresh in his mind when he wrote the book.

The musical South Pacific was based upon the book. While I read the book some of the music began going through my head, particularly
...more
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James Albert Michener is best known for his sweeping multi-generation historical fiction sagas, usually focusing on and titled after a particular geographical region. His first novel, Tales of the South Pacific , which inspired the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific, won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Toward the end of his life, he created the Journey Prize, awarded annually for th
...more
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“I wish I could tell you about the South Pacific. The way it actually was. The endless ocean. The infinite specks of coral we called islands. Coconut palms nodding gracefully toward the ocean. Reefs upon which waves broke into spray, and inner lagoons, lovely beyond description. I wish I could tell you about the sweating jungle, the full moon rising behind the volcanoes, and the waiting. The waiting. The timeless, repetitive waiting.” 5 likes
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