Good Minds Suggest—Sarah Jio's Favorite Books About the South Pacific

January, 2012

Sarah Jio Sarah Jio's memories of the South Pacific are still vibrant more than ten years after her 2001 honeymoon to Tahiti. Her latest work of fiction, The Bungalow, is inspired by the region's blue waters and ocean breezes. Like her first work, The Violets of March (set on Bainbridge Island in Washington state), this historical novel explores the 1940s and island living. Set on Bora Bora when the United States military established a supply base following the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, the story tracks the budding romance between an army nurse and a brooding soldier whose union is thwarted by the onrush of war. Also a health and fitness blogger for Glamour.com, the Seattle-based writer shares with Goodreads her favorite books that capture the allure of the South Pacific.

Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener
"I read this novel—the 1948 Pulitzer prizewinner for fiction—ten years ago, right before my wedding and honeymoon to Tahiti. I wanted to learn about the islands of French Polynesia, and Michener's vivid story packed with romance, gorgeous scenery, and descriptions of life on the islands didn't disappoint."


30 Days in the South Pacific: True Stories of Escape to Paradise, edited by Sean O'Reilly, James O'Reilly, and Larry Habegger
"Richly detailed essays written by a compilation of writers (many of them Islands magazine contributors), this book conjures the scents of the tropics (from coconuts to frangipani) and will make you want to book a trip to the South Pacific ASAP."


The Writings of a Savage by Paul Gauguin
"I'm fascinated with Paul Gauguin, who reportedly left his wife and family of five children to escape to the islands of the South Pacific to paint. A selfish move? I think so, but I'm still captivated by his art and fascinated by the writings in his personal journals. And in my research for The Bungalow, I had the good fortune of getting in touch with one of the artist's great-great-granddaughters, who is active in all things Gauguin."


The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost
"I have this book on my nightstand, and just a few chapters in, I know I'm in for a hilarious ride. This unusual memoir/travelogue isn't really about sex or cannibals (you can stop blushing) but rather the challenges, quirks, and uncommon joys of life in the Pacific Islands."


Stories from the Pacific by Lawrence F. Kirby
"In my research for The Bungalow, I found this memoir written by a former 'mud Marine' to be a gritty and informative look into life in the island jungles during the war—mosquitoes and all."



Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Best Books About the South Pacific



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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by Jean (new)

Jean If one is interested in reading about life in Tahiti -- about the locals,Celestine Hitiura Vaite has written several novels that paint a good picture. The titles are Breadfruit, Frangipani, Tiare, Tiare in Bloom and The Husband Who Didn't Deserve his Wife and Everything that happened Next.


message 2: by Steve (new)

Steve If you are interested in reading about the Pacific, you might consider reading something by the people whose ancestors lived there for centuries before Gauguin, Michener, and their ilk started producing romaticized images of noble and ignoble savages as the people themselves were being dispossessed of their land and the US and French tested nuclear weapons on their sacred places.

Thanks to Jean for recommending Vaite, but you might also try Chantal Spitz's Island of Shattered Dreams. Move on to Albert Wendt, Patricia Grace, Witi Ihimaera, and Sia Figiel.


message 3: by Beverly (new)

Beverly How about including books written by Polynesians?


message 4: by JoAnn (new)

JoAnn Bassett If you count the Hawaiian Islands as part of the South Pacific (it's actually sort of "middle Pacific") and you love island tales, check out my first mystery in the "Islands of Aloha" series, "Maui Widow Waltz." It's available as an ebook or in paper. Mahalo!


message 5: by Beverly (new)

Beverly are you of Polynesian descent??????


message 6: by JoAnn (new)

JoAnn Bassett Hi Beverly. Nope, I'm a haole who moved to Maui and got caught up in learning everything I could about the fascinating history of the place. I try to keep my political leanings out of the writing, but they sort of creep in every now and then. (Hawaii was a sovereign nation that got caught up in "manifest destiny".) But the mysteries are "beach reads"--fun stories about living and working in a place the tourist bureau touts as "paradise."


message 7: by Beverly (new)

Beverly Then, not to be rude, but I would like both of you to refrain from sending spam to me about your books. I am quite serious about Polynesian culture, which is why I asked for books by Polynesians.


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