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Shark Dialogues

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  2,326 ratings  ·  310 reviews
Spellbinding in its imagery and ancient myths, Shark Dialogues is the stunningly sensual and visionary epic of a Polynesian Hawaiian family, a story of daring, passionate women and men, their losses and triumphs, their comedies and tragedies, their anguish and joy. Set mainly in contemporary Hawaii, it is a spectacular odyssey through fire and water, a journey that begins ...more
Paperback, 512 pages
Published August 1st 1995 by Plume (first published 1994)
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Average rating 4.08  · 
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 ·  2,326 ratings  ·  310 reviews

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Jeanette (Now on StoryGraph)
This book utterly defies categorization. It begins with a brief introduction of four girl cousins winging their way back to Pono's coffee farm in the 1990s. Then it jumps back in time and becomes historical fiction with a smattering of magical realism. Hawaii's sad and painful past is covered, with special emphasis on the way lepers were treated through the decades. But it's also a family saga following the generations of women in Pono's family, beginning with the unlikely pairing of a Tahitian ...more
Tara Chevrestt
Sep 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
The first half of this novel is wonderful! I could not get enough of it. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the Tahitian runaway bride and the one eyed whaler and their life in pioneer Hawaii and their children. I learned so much about Hawaii history. Davenport has exceptional talent throwing in historical facts and details without losing the magic of an engrossing storyline. I was overtaken with emotion many times.

A quarter thru the book, Pono is introduced and she proves to be a character the
Lori Ann
Dec 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Count me as one Haole Wahine who really enjoyed the lessons this book had to offer. It spanned Hawaiian history from the 1800s to present day through the eyes of several generations of strong women from one family. I've been to Hawaii a handful of times, and this book gave me perspective on why native islanders are not always quite so happy to welcome new residents from the mainland. (I'd heard about this from a friend who lived there, but lacked the background to understand the history behind i ...more
Jul 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
A great first novel about Hawaii, with specific political views.

I've seen one criticism I agree strongly with: one, the need for an editor - the copy shown in the picture looks like a galley, there are rampant spelling mistakes and run on sentences. A few times, characters travel the same routes and the drive is described almost identically twice. Someone wrote that this book could have been 100 or 150 pages shorter and would have been much "tighter" and I agree.

That said, it's a great adventur
Feb 06, 2009 rated it it was ok
I liked the first 70ish pages about the matriarch Kelonikoa, the daughter of a Tahitian chief. The writing was colorful and vibrant. Hawaiian history and geogarphy were wonderfully described.

But now, Pono, Kelonikoa's great granddaughter, has come on stage. The writing is just too dramatic, too graphic - with slaughter and rape and magical realism that is simply too weird. I am fighting my desire to just dump this book. I REALLY am not enjoying myself. Usch, do I have to continue with this.....
Christie Bane
Feb 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Oh my God, this book was SO GOOD!

I don't really even know where to start. I suppose I will start with the simple fact that Kiana Davenport is a beautiful writer. I don't know how it's possible for anyone to produce almost 500 pages of such terribly beautiful writing. I say "terribly beautiful" because some of the things she writes about are, truly, terrible. I don't want to give away too much of the story, but take my word for it, if you read this book you will have images burned into your brain
Apr 17, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read Shark Dialogues while in Hawaii, and it made me enjoy the book more than I would have. The language strays into over-adjectival cheesiness, especially whenever anyone admires nature or has sex. And although I'm sympathetic to the claims of the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, it really bums me out to read a novel that's openly sympathetic to terrorism. Sorry, Davenport, but I just can't get down with that.

Anyway, the real reason to read this book is for the first half, when Davenport skillf
Jul 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Wanda by: eman d.
This story is so amazing! I loved the integration of the history of Hawai'i into the matriarchal genealogy of the main character, Pono. The first half of the book was so engrossing I read it in one day! Pono's stories and history were beautiful and powerful. But the second half sort of lost me. The cousins' stories were harder to keep track of, in terms of who was the daughter of whom. And the language got a little repetitive. I love reading about Hawai'i's rich and sad history, about mixed wome ...more
Apr 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
my fave book on hawaii, davenport's a genius. strong women, politics, that dirty/beautiful hawaii thing and of course sex. ...more
Sep 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: usa-hawaii
Hawaii + magical realism. I generally enjoyed the storyline but the quality of writing is taxing. An editor would have made a huge difference.
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
What kind of legacy will I leave behind? I’m not convinced it will be much beyond my children. DNA testing, Ancestry and other genealogical sites are a great help in archiving family trees, photos and stories but I don’t feel we can capture the intimate thoughts and memories.

Shark Dialogues is a gorgeous book about the power of our descendants. The story revolves around Pono - the oldest matriarch of a Hawaiian family whose legacy goes back generations. She has been hesitant to reveal all the f
Laurie Hanan
Apr 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If ever a book deserved more than five stars, it is this one. Each paragraph flows like a poem, and I found myself reading the same words again and again, trying to absorb all the ideas contained in them. This is not a fast read, by any means, but well worth taking the time to read it well.

The lines between reality and Hawaiian myth blur as this expansive saga follows seven generations of a family in Hawai'i. The often-dark, angry tale begins as "Pono's girls" are summoned to the Big Island by t
Dec 07, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Becky by: Katie
Shelves: 2008
this book is reviewed on the cover by isabel allende, and it reminded me a lot of isabel allende books. it spanned over several generations of strong women often being oppressed by men all set to a historical and political background, written in a style of magical realism. however, what made this book especially interesting to me was that the historical and political background was that of hawaii. i realized that i really haven't thought much about the history of hawaii and how it came to be a p ...more
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: i-prefer-rum
First things first - I read it because a friend needs help with a paper on this book and I needed to know the details to be able to help. I would have never picked this book up otherwise.

The writing is...difficult. I must admit, I read George R.R. Martin's doorstoppers faster than this one. It is overly descriptive, particularly when it comes to sex, and particularly when descriptions aren't truly needed. It is overly detailed, the author frequently digresses and focusses, I think, on all the w
May 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
It was really hard to put this book down once I became engrossed in the description and lives of these powerful women. With the epic backdrop of Pono, Duke, their daughters, and granddaughters, the history of Hawaii is woven into the story-line allowing the reader to get a firsthand glimpse of a paradise lost to commercialism and exploitation of its' native peoples throughout the generations. While the first half of the book is very picturesque and lyrical, the final portion of the book began to ...more
May 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
I'm surprised that I'm only listing this book now on GR, because even tho I read it, oh, 20 years ago? it's obviously left it's mark. Now that's a 5 star book. As a matter of fact, I think I'll go restructure my ratings. It's time that tells me when a book is 5-stars, when I still am nostalgic so many years later about this reading experience.

Because this book had everything - deep emotional impact, bitterness at the machine of injustice, Hawaiian history, native politics, and well developed cha
Nov 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
So much to say. Full review coming soon.
Sarah Fountain
Oct 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you asked me half way through the book, it would have gotten five stars and a spot on my top ten favorite books ever. Davenport weaves in and out of the personal narrative of the women she writes about and centuries of Hawaiian history. This book is one of the few historical fiction novels where the "historical" element is more than just a backdrop.

The second half fell a little flat. The story of Pono's four granddaughters followed clearly and was still incredibly powerful, but I thought some
Penny Atcheson
Feb 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I don't generally read other reviews but in this case I'm glad I did. In reading the reviews, I wanted to pinpoint why this book spoke to me, in spite of the detailed descriptions and lyrical, lengthy writing style. Times seem more necessary to hear the opinions of others, even if the opinions are about a book written almost ten years ago. This wasn't my intention when I picked the book up. I honestly wanted to escape from current events with something describing the past lives of island women i ...more
Aurora Shele
Mar 15, 2020 rated it liked it
This book took me ages to finish. Some parts were really interesting. Others hard to get to. But overall a nice story about generations in Hawaii.
Sep 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Perfect book to read before and after my trip to Oahu, HI.

Publisher's Weekly describes the plot better than I could:

A sprawling but compelling first novel, Davenport's gargantuan family epic centers on the awe-inspiring Hawaiian matriarch Pono, a prophet gifted with magic powers, and her four estranged, mixed-marriage granddaughters. The book begins in 1834 with Pono's forebears, a shipwrecked Yankee sailor who had resorted to cannibalism, and a runaway Tahitian princess, and covers large chunk
Arapahoe Libraries
Jul 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: joannes-picks
While Hawaii carries an all encompassing viewpoint, Shark Dialogues, by Kiana Davenportm is a debut novel that is spellbinding in its imagery and ancient myths. It is a stunningly sensual and epic novel of a Polynesian Hawaiian family that centers on the awe-inspiring matriarch, Pono, a prophet gifted with magic powers and her four estranged, mixed-marriage granddaughters. I think Pono is one of the most powerful and magical characters in modern day fiction. Ms. Davenport manages to maneuver the ...more
Jan 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
I first read this one a few years ago for book club, and the biggest thing I remembered about it is that it made me want to go to Hawaii. The descriptions of the ocean views and paradise-like setting of the jungles, even in some not great times for the characters, were enough to make me want a vacation.

This last week, I did go on vacation. I spent a week on Maui, so I thought it would be appropriate to read this one again to set the tone. I read it on the (really long) plane ride.

There are some
Feb 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
I read this book while staying on the Big Island and that was definitely a good time to read it. It is set on the island of Hawaii. This historical fiction novel covers many generations of a family and uses the history of Hawaii as the backdrop. I definitely learned a lot about Hawaii. The story was engrossing, the characters well-developed. I didn't give it 5 stars for 2 reasons. 1.) I thought the writer needed a good editor on more than one occasion. I felt the story didn't need as much as it ...more
May 27, 2009 rated it liked it
i loved the first part of this book! the author gives some great insight into the history of hawaii (which is fascinating and heartbreaking) by telling the story of man and woman who fall in love. the second part of the book brings us to modern day, into the lives of their 4 great-great-granddaughters. here's where the author lost me... this part of the book read like it was written by a completely different person. the book started out as historical fiction and then became more like a harlequin ...more
Feb 09, 2010 rated it it was ok
Pros: Davenport writes in several beautiful, artsy styles. The Hawaiian history contained within is interesting and left me desiring more history of the Hawaiian Islands. The characters were deeply developed. BUT...
Cons: The constant flip-flopping between writing styles and themes was annoying (to me). While I loved the history, the book was way too long, too detailed, and this could have been split into 2 books, with each book making a great story. Finally, while the characters had a lot of dep
Jun 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Conveys in rich context a pain and loss singular to the islands of the Pacific. The rape of a culture and the death of a way of life is made immediate and painfully real. At the same time, it honors the bloody mash of Pacific and Asian cultures unique to the Hawaiian Islands and the savage history of sugar plantations and the bond this has created amongst local people. A new culture exists, one laden with loss, but also a vibrant mix of people with strong traditions based on dozens of cultures.

Jun 13, 2010 rated it it was ok
Historical Hawaiian Fiction....1800-1990s Hawaii...Hawaii's history told through 4 generations of women.

I struggled with this book. Am happy to have read it, but wouldn't be able to recommend it. Too mythical/magical for my tastes. The historical part felt impersonal and rat-a-tat run through of events. The second half of the book takes place in modern day focusing on native Hawaiian struggles for soverignty. Made me not want to visit Hawaii since I would be part of the white man problem.

Read Mo
May 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
I read this book a long time ago and it still lingers in my memory. I should read it again to make sure my memory serves me well, but I remember being entranced by the characters, their stories, and the author's writing style. One long descriptive passage went on so long that I re-read it several times astonished that I hadn't skipped over the periods. I hadn't - it was one continous flowing and descriptive sentence. If you like historical fiction with generous doses of magical realism, this may ...more
Mar 07, 2009 rated it liked it
This book was beautiful, poetic, epic in scope, full of adventure and emotions yet not cheesy needed a little culling. I feel like at least 100 pages could've been edited from the final book...there was a lot of repetition and unneeded scenes and details; I ended up skimming quite a bit. The author handled generations and many characters very well. It was magical, but could've been more so with a big red pen!!! ...more
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KIANA DAVENPORT is descended from a full-blooded Native Hawaiian mother, and a Caucasian father from Talladega, Alabama. Her father, Braxton Bragg Davenport, was a sailor in the U.S. Navy, stationed at Pearl Harbor, when he fell in love with her mother, Emma Kealoha Awaawa Kanoho Houghtailing. On her mother's side, Kiana traces her ancestry back to the first Polynesian settlers to the Hawaiian Isl ...more

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