Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Leaves of the Banyan Tree” as Want to Read:
Leaves of the Banyan Tree
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Leaves of the Banyan Tree

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  203 ratings  ·  27 reviews
An epic spanning three generations, Leaves of the Banyan Tree tells the story of a family and community in Western Samoa, exploring on a grand scale such universal themes as greed, corruption, colonialism, exploitation, and revenge. Winner of the 1980 New Zealand Wattie Book of the Year Award, it is considered a classic work of Pacific literature.
Paperback, 424 pages
Published March 1st 1994 by University of Hawaii Press (first published 1979)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Leaves of the Banyan Tree, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.99  · 
Rating details
 ·  203 ratings  ·  27 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Leaves of the Banyan Tree
A fascinating insight into Samoa across three generations of a family. Set in 1900-1970ish, Tauilopepe is the central character. He is the headman of his aiga and wants to be the most powerful man in his village. He is seriously ambitious and as his fortunes rise, he moves further away from his culture to reward himself with a big house, a flushing toilet, whisky, and the ability to send his sons to Western schools.
This is a book about greed, misuse of power, the use of religion to influence peo
Jun 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is a story of fathers and sons, of ambition and greed, of what is acquired and what is lost, a family saga set against a culture in change. I wish my library had more books by this author.
Bob Newman
Samoa breaks into literature

I have long been interested in Samoa, ever since I wrote a term paper on Samoan culture in my sophomore year at college, but I have still not been lucky enough to visit the country. Having read Margaret Mead’s “classic” as a young scholar, I felt suspicious as to how she managed to come up with her conclusions when she couldn’t speak the language. Later works proved my suspicions correct. A few years ago I read about a new Samoan movie that had come out called “The Or
Harry Rutherford
Jan 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
I think the blurb gives a pretty good idea of what kind of book this is:

An epic spanning three generations, Leaves of the Banyan Tree tells the story of a family and community in Western Samoa, exploring on a grand scale such universal themes as greed, corruption, colonialism, exploitation, and revenge. Winner of the 1980 New Zealand Wattie Book of the Year Award, it is considered a classic work of Pacific literature.

It is, in other words, a Big Novel about Important Things. And although it occa
Set in Samoa and spanning three generations, I was eagerly looking forward to my first Samoan read. While the book provides an interesting look into the culture, history and life in Samoa, I'm sad to say I didn't enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. The writing didn't captivate or engage me and I found my mind wandering and having to consciously pull myself back into the story. Tauilopepe is the central character in the book and is driven by the need for power and money alienating many, ...more
Feb 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my top five favorite books. It takes place in Samoa. It is fiction. I went to Samoa and had some ugly realizations about the long-term effects of imperialism/colonialism. Instead of committing genocide and rounding up the citizens of Samoa onto reservations (which there is no space for), the imperial powers dominated the culture using religion. The book is not directly about that, I had extra appreciation for the conquer-through-religion layer in the landscape of the book and its ...more
Sandra The Old Woman in a Van
This is an extremely difficult book to review. In some ways I found it remarkable and in others I just hated it.

Originally I chose this book for New Zealand on my “around the world book tour.” But it’s all Samoan. Sure, New Zealand did oversee the protectorate until 1965, but, to check off NZ, I’ll find another book for that is genuinely Kiwi.

So - Samoa. My reading journey around the world is intentional. I’m looking for books that take me on a virtual exploration of a country. Wendt’s epic nove
Elena Sala
LEAVES OF THE BANYAN TREE (1979) is a family saga spanning three generations of Western Samoans. Tauilopepe, the grandfather (and protagonist), lives on his family's plantation in a farming village, respecting the traditional Samoan way of life until he decides to fight the European encroachment in order to extend his family's lands and acquire wealth, power, and prestige. He succeeds in his pursuit of worldly success, at a steep price, though.

The novel's world is very much a man’s world, and ev
Aug 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-tour
The author Albert Wendt was born in Apia, Samoa, and wrote several books drawing on his knowledge of island life. The title story is a slow paced family saga about three generations and the history of post-colonialism. At the time (Western) Samoa was administered by New Zealand, but their hand rested lightly. The store owner who controls the copra trade is a native Samoan, not a representative of a foreign multinational company. Tauilopepe, the plantation owner who cuts down the native forest to ...more
May 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
So I finally got myself to a library and read this book, widely known now as a modern classic of Pacific Literature.

It's about this seriously ambitious man, Tauilopepe, who decides that he's going to turn his family's matai land into a business - just like the Palagis do with their plantations. In his unfaltering drive for money and power, he betrays all the people who love him, loses his children - his only beloved son, even, rebels against him in a massive way - and spends the rest of his lif
Jan 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read this a few summers ago and cannot believe I failed to write a review of it. The result is that my summary will be short.

It takes you to another place. Invites you inside of another culture. And shows you what happens to a culture when the impulse of material acquisition is allowed expression. A year and a half later, the novel still has me in its grips. Powerful, beautiful, and haunting. A great book from a masterful writer.
Aug 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pacific-fictin
This is quite a story. Three books blend into one, and the family stories are carried through from one to another. The narrative is rich and dense, and ideas and words fill the pages.

This is the story of three generations of a family in Samoa, and the family and its relation to the surrounding community within which it finds itself. It is really a sad and tragic story, the patriach of the family chooses wealth and position repeatedly over the well- being of his own family, and the consequences
Sep 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book was my introduction to Pacific Literature. Great development of characters and the underlying message is relayed. I loved this story of greed, love, and loss.
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a book of raw power. The characters in it are all giants. They are stark and energetic people, who move only with grand gestures. Wendt’s novel is an attempt at a Pacific epic, that will tell the origin of modern Samoa. Tauilopepe, Pepe, Masina, Lupe, Taifau, Galupo, Filipo, Ashton, and most of all Toasa are his mythical heroes, whose deeds create a new world and a new people.

It is a terribly sad story of material prosperity and spiritual decline. Wendt has a tragic vision of history. Ta
Oct 27, 2020 added it
This novel takes the reader through a couple of generations of Samoans and gives a feel for how the traditional way of life has changed. I found the various story lines more and more interesting as I progressed through the book.

A small dictionary is provided at the end of the book and it comes in very handy because the author uses a lot of Samoan words throughout. In the beginning, this made reading slow for me but after a while I knew the words so I could stop looking everything up and just rea
May 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A little patience from the reader while reading this slow moving epic pays off. This novel is a marvelously big ideas book playing out in a very local description of three generations of a Samoan family. I first read it twenty years ago and recently picked it up to reread... powerful read, worth reading again with more life experiences than twenty years ago. I hope I read it again in another twenty years.
Suzanne Auckerman
May 13, 2021 rated it liked it
Another book that I found in the house. I don't know where is came from. It was published in 1983, but was probably published in the UK and New Zealand first. It takes place in Samoa and spans three generations of a family. The Samoans were brutal, but considered themselves very religious. ...more
Jun 27, 2019 marked it as to-read
American Samoa
Nick Harris
Apr 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: golden-quandong
God, Money and Power plus men, a recipe for disaster.
Mar 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-lit
Although this is apparently considered one of the classics of South Pacific literature, I hadn't heard of it before a reading challenge forced me to dig out a selection from this region. I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised. It's a generation-spanning epic that remains an exploration of distinctly Samoan experiences while tapping into universal issues like pride, betrayal and the frustration of fighting against a class system that will never let you win.

The writing makes little effort t
Ashley Clark
Dec 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is the greatest novel you have never heard of. Set in Samoa, Leave of the Banyan tree follows three generations and deals with family, masculinity, religion, and "progress." When the author started into the progress motif, I was afraid it would turn into another noble savages type novel. Instead, I finished, and kept contemplating what exactly the author was trying to say. Who was good, and who was evil? What was the right path? How much can a nation's goals be separated from that of a fami ...more
Jan 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Esta historia del crecimiento de un pueblo samoano a través de tres generaciones logra abarcar todos los tópicos usuales y necesarios de una era postcolonial sin perder nunca el interés en la humanidad corrompida y ambigua de sus personajes. Quizás el final sea su punto más debatible.
Lori Tian Sailiata
Jul 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"The vanity in each of us makes us beasts of prey upon each other and all other living creatures. We must heal ourselves, destroy our self-love. If we do not we will continue to excrete our own self-destruction. We are capable of so much beauty." ~Toasa (p 241)

Fathers and Sons, fa'a Samoa.
Dec 20, 2016 rated it liked it
there are some cool parts in this book but also too many of the other kind, and the writing just isn't that great. ...more
Vesna Denić
rated it really liked it
May 22, 2017
Stujallen allen
rated it it was amazing
Sep 19, 2013
rated it it was amazing
Sep 07, 2015
rated it it was amazing
Sep 29, 2014
rated it it was amazing
Mar 03, 2017
rated it did not like it
Jul 04, 2008
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Around the World ...: Discussion for Leaves of the Banyan 1 14 Jan 15, 2021 06:54PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Once Were Warriors (Once Were Warriors Trilogy #1)
  • The Chicken Sisters
  • Bury the Chains
  • King Leopold's Ghost
  • Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West
  • How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
  • The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming
  • The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down: Guidance on the Path to Mindfulness from a Spiritual Leader
  • Zen: The Art of Simple Living
  • Lightly: How to Live a Simple, Serene, and Stress-free Life
  • The Scribe
  • The Old Drift
  • Humankind: A Hopeful History
  • New York
  • Margaret the First
  • Unfree Speech: The Threat to Global Democracy and Why We Must Act, Now
  • Malice (Detective Kaga, #1)
  • A Decline in Prophets (Rowland Sinclair #2)
See similar books…
Albert Wendt was born in Apia, Samoa.
Wendt's epic Leaves of the Banyan Tree (1979) won the 1980 New Zealand Book Awards. He was appointed to the first chair in Pacific literature at the University of the South Pacific in Suva. In 1988 he took up a professorship of Pacific studies at the University of Auckland. In 1999 Wendt was visiting Professor of Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of

News & Interviews

These twelve books are so consistently adored, they have become regulars month after month in our data of most popular and most read books on...
124 likes · 44 comments