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Tales of the South Pacific

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  12,070 Ratings  ·  302 Reviews
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 planter, Emile De Becque. The soldiers, sailors, and nurses playing at war and waiting for love in a tropic paradise.
Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages
Published September 12th 1984 by Fawcett (first published 1947)
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Zorro I think he lived the story while stationed in the South Pacific during WWII. Of course he embellished the actual events and used his imagination and…moreI think he lived the story while stationed in the South Pacific during WWII. Of course he embellished the actual events and used his imagination and invented characters as well. (less)

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1948 Pulitzer Prize winner.

This was the book that caused the Pulitzer committee to change the name of the category from novel to fiction. That's because this is actually a group of 19 short stories, and they are similar in themes and subject matter, and they are sequential or chronological which gives it the feeling of a novel.

It's about WWII in the Pacific. An ugly, horrific disaster taking place in paradise; talk about a contradiction. But it's historical fiction at a high level; you don't com
Apr 24, 2012 Ensiform rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, war
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
Sep 08, 2007 Matthew Klobucher rated it really liked it
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
Roxanne Russell
Jan 16, 2013 Roxanne Russell rated it really liked it
Shelves: pulitzer-fiction
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
Apr 20, 2013 Deanne rated it really liked it
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.
Jun 15, 2009 Kenny rated it liked it
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
Andrew Kraemer
May 12, 2013 Andrew Kraemer rated it it was ok
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
Dec 11, 2015 Hana rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-reads
Our fathers and grandfathers war. Now we need to fight the one on our hands. Can't do a good review with current GR settings. Just housekeeping here.
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
Apr 12, 2017 Taija rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book for my Pulitzer Prize Reading Challenge. I'm probably already prejudiced when reading any PP winner, but I really tried to remain neutral while reading this book.

With the amount of WWII literature I have been reading, I'm finding myself wondering if I am in fact a Pacifist - or at least against war. Because I'm NOT against someone physically defending themselves.

This book was heart wrenching. So many men died. So many men committed adultery on their wives. I HATE adultery. I d
Jul 22, 2013 GymGuy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical-novel
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
Oct 28, 2013 Owen rated it really liked it
Recommended to Owen by: Pulitzer Prize Board
James A. Michener, like so many aspiring novelists, did not find success until he was nearly forty. But when he did find it with Tales of South Pacific, his first published novel, he seemed to have started at the zenith of his career, winning the Pulitzer in 1948, and having Roger and Hammerstein adapt his work for a Broadway musical in 1949. The motion picture South Pacific topped the box office in 1958 and its soundtrack, with such well known favorites as “Bali-Ha’i,” “Some Enchanted Evening,” ...more
Jan 01, 2012 Carl rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 05, 2013 Gale rated it really liked it

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
Jul 29, 2011 Corto rated it really liked it
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
Dec 04, 2013 Ram rated it liked it
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
Dec 26, 2009 Wayne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Try out Michener..first book and a winner
Recommended to Wayne by: Keith Wilton...his Xmas pres to 12yr.old Me

I must say I LOVE this book.

Michener's tale is about what people do in a war
when they are just forced to sit around on lots of islands
because the alternative is allowing the Japanese to sit around on them instead.
It was the war he says when everyone got a chance to read Tolstoy's "War and Peace".
That's how long it was...the book AND the waiting.
'Rock-jolly' got some - these cracked and had to be sent back to the States 'under guard'.
Another stole a truck with nowhere to go - his island had onl
Jun 24, 2013 Steve rated it really liked it
Nellie Forbush, Emile de Becque, Bloody Mary, Lt Cable, Luther Billis that you know from the musical South Pacific are all in Michener's collection of short stories, and while you will recognize these characters from the musical, and some of the story lines, their tales here are slightly different with somewhat different endings. Also, gone from the musical are much of the sexism and the racial bigotry that is presented in Michener's stories (okay, clearly the Lt Cable-Liat love story presents t ...more
Susan Liston
May 13, 2015 Susan Liston rated it really liked it
Written in 1947, the introduction says at the end "...these men of the South their victories, will be remembered as long as our generation lives. After that, like the men of the Confederacy, they will become strangers. Longer and longer shadows will obscure them, until their Guadalcanal sounds distant on the ear like Shiloh and Valley Forge." And now, that's about true.
I've read so much drivel, fiction-wise, in the last few months it was refreshing to read something that had some
Aug 12, 2009 Heather rated it really liked it
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
Anna Gabur
Jun 23, 2014 Anna Gabur rated it liked it
I have conflicting thoughts about this book. At first all the technical details were unnecessarily overwhelming and ubiquitous. I had the feeling I was reading the same story over and over again. I missed the tightness and speed that made me fall in love with short stories in the first place. Somewhere in the second half of the book I realized that this should NOT be taken as a collection of stories, but rather as a wholesome novel with weirdly ordered chapters. This helped as I didn't feel comp ...more
Pat Bretheim
Nov 29, 2016 Pat Bretheim rated it it was amazing
I just loved this book because it gave me the backstory to my favorite musical, "South Pacific". It was so exciting to read the real story of Luther Billis, Nellie Forbush, Emile DeBecque, etc.
I was deeply moved by the story of Commander Hoag, a truly great man, who made it possible to build an airstrip on Konora in only 15 days. On the 16th day bombers were able to land!
Also loved the story of the commander who prepared his camp for a hurricane so well that out of 200 buildings, only 4 were des
Apr 07, 2009 Amit rated it really liked it
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
Oct 25, 2008 Tom Barnes rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 23, 2012 Feliks rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction-general
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.
John Randolph
Oct 14, 2013 John Randolph rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up
Not compelling. Felt too much like reading out of obligation. I kept thinking, "It won the 1948 Pulitzer, it will be good. Just keep going". Yet, time is short and there are too many other glorious options waiting to spend in drudgery. It's not you, it's me.
Neil Crossan
Sep 28, 2010 Neil Crossan rated it it was ok
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)
Jan 09, 2011 Laura marked it as to-read
Recommended by Alan Brennert, author of Moloka'i.
May 07, 2017 Kelly rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
Tales of the South Pacific is a collection of interconnected short stories about the sailors stationed in the South Pacific islands during WWII. The narrator is telling the stories of his experiences, of his friends, the natives, and the nurses. I read it because the I love the musical South Pacific, which was based on this book, but now I have the very common response to a book that was adapted for the screen or stage: the book was sooooo much better.*

The book was published in 1946, so the hist
Lisa Burgess
May 17, 2017 Lisa Burgess rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bücher, die ich ständig mit mir herum trage, sind am Ende eigentlich immer 5 Sterne Bücher.
Seit der HBO Serie "The Pacific" (quasi das Gegenstück zu "Band Of Brothers") habe ich ein besonderes Interesse an dem Teil des Zweiten Weltkrieges, der sich auf den Inseln im Südpazifik ausgetragen hat.
Michener beschreibt mit mehreren Kurzgeschichten, die alle vom gleichen Protagonisten beobachtet und erlebt wurden und daher teils zusammenhängen, die Zeit des Wartens auf den Inseln. Teilweise lustige Ge
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Tackling the Puli...: Tales of the South Pacific (James Michener, 1948) 7 26 May 24, 2016 06:27AM  
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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 t
More about James A. Michener...

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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.” 10 likes
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