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Tales of the South Pacific

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  14,049 ratings  ·  423 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 Books (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 i…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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Average rating 4.04  · 
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Duane
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
...more
Ensiform
Apr 24, 2012 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
Dax
This is not a collection of short stories but rather a group of tales- some more tangential than others- with recurring characters, themes and locations. These stories largely consist of officers, enlisted men, nurses, and natives who attempt to stay busy- physically and mentally- as they await the next push of the war.

Michener's two areas of focus here are the clash of drastically different cultures and the soldiers' struggle to grapple with the age old question of "why am I here"? Most of the
...more
Taija
1948 Pulitzer Prize Winner.

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
...more
Matthew Klobucher
Sep 08, 2007 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
Deanne
Apr 20, 2013 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.
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
Manray9
Nov 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: american-lit
James A. Michener's Tales of the South Pacific, a collection of related stories of rear-echelon service in the Solomons and New Hebrides during World War II, received a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1948, inspired the Broadway musical South Pacific, and served as the foundation for the early-1960s TV series Adventures in Paradise. I found it rather boring. In trying to describe the tales, the words over-rated, flat, cliched, repetitive, and dated kept coming to mind. The book has not withstood t ...more
Andrew Kraemer
May 12, 2013 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
...more
Roxanne Russell
Jan 16, 2013 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
Sara J. (kefuwa)
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pulitzer
**Review Pending**

How does one review a book like this? I took awhile to get through it (but that could be just me - I don't particularly feel the need to rush through books like this... only taking it in a bit at a time) but I found it quite engaging on the whole. I found out that it inspired a Rodgers & Hammerstein film of the same name - and after that I could not but read the book in that narrator voice that usually comes from films of that era so that the whole reading experience became som
...more
Kenny
Jun 15, 2009 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
Hana
Dec 11, 2015 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.
Tim
This was Michener's first book and it is obvious why it won the Pulitzer. Written in 1946 and published a year later, it must have been one of the first epics on the Second World War, and one that focused entirely on the Pacific theatre would catch the eye of the jury even easier. Although widely fictional - as always with Michener - the excellent short stories and tales take the reader along some of the U.S. Navy operations between 1942 and '44, focusing on the Solomon and Russell islands, as w ...more
Wayne
Dec 26, 2009 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
...more
Carmen
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.
Dwayne Roberts
Jun 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Delightful tales of life in the South Pacific with the backdrop of WWII. Very human stories, and, near the end, a horrific battle. Honor to the fallen. Honor to all the men, great and not.
GymGuy
Jul 22, 2013 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
John Randolph
Oct 14, 2013 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.
Owen
Oct 28, 2013 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
Tim
Jan 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Tales Of The South Pacific won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948. Another WWII novel, but this one is a series of short stories of the war in the pacific. James Michener is a great story teller and I enjoyed his writing. I give Tales Of The South Pacific 4 stars.
Tom
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Michener has written a deeply moving series of stories set in the South Pacific during the height of world war 2. Michener himself served in this theatre of the war and pours his heart and soul into it. what is so striking about the work is he places the simple mundane existence of the characters besides the very real specter of combat and death. He paints these stories so vividly that you feel you are there. It is no wonder that He won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for this his first work!
Steve
Jun 24, 2013 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
Carl
Jan 01, 2012 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
...more
Gale
Apr 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Corto
Jul 29, 2011 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
Ram
Dec 04, 2013 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
...more
Miriam
Apr 19, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is another surprisingly fitting book to read during a pandemic: there's a lot of waiting and ennui and shenanigans while you know that technically what you're doing is for a "good cause" and also other people are fighting the good fight in much more dramatic ways and you feel helpless.

It took me awhile to get into it. Some of this is probably my reduced concentration these days, but it's also the jargon of World War II soldiers that I don't know or really care about. He evokes life in the t
...more
Graychin (D. Dalrymple)
My maternal grandfather was a Navy man in WWII. He served aboard a destroyer in the South Pacific and the Aleutians. His ship was involved in the battle for Guadalcanal and was part of a convoy supporting the reinvasion of the Philippines when it was hit by a kamikaze pilot, killing more than thirty sailors and crippling the vessel. It was towed into the bay of an islet and most of the sailors camped on shore for a month while the ship was laboriously repaired despite recurring Japanese attacks. ...more
Robert Palmer
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was published in 1947 ,Michener won the Pulitzer Prize.
The nineteen short stories gives a taste of what it felt like to be involved in WWII ,Michener was the age forty when he enlisted in the Navy, he earned the rank of Lieutenant commander,you might say that he was embedded with the Navy during the war,
The short stories are nonfiction,however reading them made it feel real and it tells a lot about what happened and why but not what it felt like.
The story titled “Dry Rot’ really cought
...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
...more

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