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Tales of the South Pacific

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  15,121 ratings  ·  530 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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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 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: war, fiction
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
May 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: american-lit
James A. Michener's Tales of the South Pacific, a collection of connected 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 boring. In trying to describe the tales, the words flat, cliched, repetitive, and dated came to mind. The book has not withstood the test of time. It rate ...more
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
Michael Finocchiaro

I am of that generation that grew up seeing these monstrously enormous hardcovers with MICHENER written down the spine on bookshelves on the rare moments my family went visiting. I later read a handful of them (Alaska, Texas, and Chesapeake) and felt myself a bigger, better person for having survived them. Actually, that isn't fair because, especially for Texas and Chesapeake, I really did enjoy the stories and felt I learned something about history each time. They were all multigenerational fam
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
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
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.
Jason Pettus
The Jason Pettus 2020 Autumn Reading Challenge (join us!)
#4: A Pulitzer Prize winner

When I was growing up in the 1970s, seemingly every adult I knew had at least a couple of James A. Michener's humongous historical-fiction tomes in their bookshelves, and it always made me curious to take some of them on once I got old enough and became a good enough reader to do so; but now that I have gotten old enough, Michener has profoundly fallen out of favor, and in the 2020s I doubt you'll find even one y
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
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
Sep 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book that progresses from lighter fare to a powerfully poignant ending.
Sara J. (kefuwa)
**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
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
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
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. ...more
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. ...more
Kryptonian Fletch
I wish I could put my finger on why I found this book such a chore to read; all I can say is that felt uneven and most of the 'tales' were just stale and lifeless. ...more

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
A few weeks ago I re-watched the musical South Pacific and decided to read the source material.
Many of the stories are familiar and there are humorous notes, but there is less gloss and more realism. Michener delves into serious subjects such as racism, rape, antisemitism, interracial romance and even homophobia. Some of the characters and stories in the play were conflated to tighten up the narrative.

Published in 1947, the book has an immediacy that is impossible to deny. For many, the Pacific
Feb 16, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-owned
2.5 stars. This was a jarring read because of the way in which American colonialism and war are romanticized as heart-stirring nostalgia (more on that in a moment). I had seen the film version of the musical as a kid, but it was quite whitewashed, and I had not yet understood the context mentioned above.

It's not even that Michener celebrates America's colonial madness; it's that he seems blissfully unaware that the nation (or his book) is even engaged with it. As much as I hate Kipling, at leas
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.
Brian Fagan
Apr 27, 2020 rated it liked it
Are you up on GI slang? When you put a bunch of young men together in combat situations, the unity that is forged by protecting each other as a group can have some interesting side effects. One is a shared language. As I read James Michener's Tales of the South Pacific, I coincidently worked a crossword puzzle by Merl Reagle with a WWII GI Mess Hall Slang theme. See how many of these slang food words and phrases you know the original word for: (answer key below)

Sand and dirt

Ptomaine steak

I had certain expectations prior to reading Tales of the South Pacific. I have read my share of war novels. I just couldn’t get excited about reading another one. Then there was Michener. I had read one of his novels many years ago, far enough in the past I couldn’t remember much, but I remembered not enjoying it. Finally, there was the musical and the movie. I generally like musicals, but not that one. So I put Tales of the South Pacific off for quite a while even though it was sitting there on ...more
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
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.
Oct 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 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.
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!
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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

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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.” 12 likes
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