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Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  5,282 ratings  ·  446 reviews
Typee is a fast-moving adventure tale, an autobiographical account of the author's Polynesian stay, an examination of the nature of good and evil, and a frank exploration of sensuality and exotic ritual.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics repre
Paperback, 368 pages
Published 1996 by Penguin Classics (first published 1846)
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Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A travelogue and idealized South Sea island adventure story inspired by that time Melville and his crewmate, Richard Tobias "Toby" Greene, jumped ship in the Marquesas and spent a month on Nuku Hiva. I can’t blame him for wanting to write about it.
It was Melville’s first book and a sensational bestseller on its release. Written before “Melville began to study the writings of Sir Thomas Browne. Heretofore our author’s style was rough in places, but marvellously simple and direct.” as Arthur Stedm
Apr 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
“Yet, after all, insensible as he is to a thousand wants, and removed from harassing cares, my not the savage be the happier man..?”
― Herman Melville, Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life


Herman Melville's first book Typee is a blend of creative memoir, cultural commentary, and good story telling. Melville recounts and elaborates on his experiences among the Typee cannibals on the French Polynesian island of Nuku Hiva (Marquesas Islands) in 1842. Typee ended up being Meville's best-selling book dur
This is the story Herman Melville was meant to tell. I hated Billy Budd; I liked Moby Dick a lot; I loved Typee.

Not coincidentally, Melville wrote this before he had met Nathaniel Hawthorne; and everything else he ever wrote after. I think Hawthorne ruined Melville as a writer.

This book feels real. Melville writes what he knows - there's no stilted 'humorous' overwrought dialogue. There's no pedagogic symbolism. There's no melodrama. There's just the story of a guy running away from a nasty sea
Sep 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who like to read about cannibals and first contact
Don't read this book if you want to lie around and dream of coconuts and natives and bare-breasted maidens. Unlike those after him (like London, Twain, and Stevenson), Melville plays with the instability of western illusions about foreign places and people. You'll have to read this between the lines, of course. This edition is awesome; the editor Sanborn is a bad-ass Melville scholar who wrote THE best book on cannibalism in the South Pacific (trust me, I've done my research!). The supplementary ...more
A terrific adventure story (based on a real-life experience) interspersed with commentary about the daily life and habits of the people of the Typee Valley in the Marquesas Islands. There are lengthy descriptions of food and cooking methods, housing, clothing, personal hygiene and grooming, rituals, sleeping habits, language, relationships. It might be considered a bit pedantic at times, but I listened in small daily doses for several weeks and found it exciting, educational, and amusing. Libriv ...more
Ian Laird
Jul 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, c19-classic
Revision 16/2/16: I found a subversive quote and made stylistic edits.

Typee is a fascinating and surprising account of South Sea islander life in the mid-nineteenth century.

The story starts as an adventure tale with young sailors Tommo and Toby jumping ship as the whaler Dolly replenishes her supplies in the Marquesas Islands. The runaways flee through the jungle, into the hands of the Typee, the most dreaded of the warring cannibal tribes whose enemies the Happars live in the next valley.

At thi
While ostensibly a memoir, Typee reads like a 19th Century boys' adventure story – and a damn good one! Here our dashing hero is held captive on the ISLE OF DANGER!! only to be confronted by CANNIBAL WARRIORS!! many of whom are NOBLE SAVAGES!! while the chicks have SEXY COCONUT TITS!! before he makes his DARING ESCAPE!! You get the idea.

But Melville was a cut above, and his observations of Polynesian life were remarkably acute. He seemed to have real empathy with the people he lived among, and h
robin friedman
Jun 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Growth Of A Seeker

Among the early products of the wonderful Library of America Series were three volumes devoted to the novels of Herman Melville. This volume consists of Melville's first three novels, Typee(1846), Omoo(1847) and Mardi (1849)

Melville's novels are based, more or less loosely, on his life at sea. The first two novels describe voyages to the Marquesas and to Tahiti. They are filled with lush descriptions of scenery, and tales of adventure. Of the two, Typee is filled with encou
Tyler Jones
May 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
As a young sailor, Herman Melville abandoned his ship in the Marquesas and lived for awhile among natives who had a reputation for being fierce warriors and cannibals. This book, Melville's first, is a fictionalized retelling of that experience. It was an instant success and gained it author much fame and a little fortune. At the time it was considered quite sensational, but many twitter-brained 21st century readers seem to find it slow. Ah, well.

The most interesting part of the book is the narr
J.M. Hushour
Sep 21, 2013 rated it liked it
It ain't no Moby Dick but it does feature cannibalism and polyandry, two of the greatest things ever conceived of by mankind.
Melville's first novel is his barely fictionalized account of his escape from a shitty employer on a whaling ship and how he ended up living amongst the Typee in the Marquesas Islands around the time the French took control. Like Dick, Typee has a lot of sections of fact which round out the narrative part of the story and which feed off of the narrator's desires and fears.
Eddie Watkins
Oct 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: american-fiction
I liked this book. I didn't love it, I just kind of liked it. Not to say that it is not a good book because it is, it's just that I only kind of liked it. I mean, Mr. Herman's a great writer and all, and so this book has great writing in it, but it's just that maybe there just wasn't enough of a story in it to make it a book that I would love, however great the writing. Great writing is no doubt great, but a novel's a novel and not just great writing. A great novel, a novel that I would love, is ...more
Tristram Shandy
Oct 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Living Among Cannibals

Melville was surely able to count on abhorrence-fuelled fascination with the topic of cannibalism when he published his first work Typee in 1846, all the more so as he cleverly created the impression of its being based on the experiences he had when he lived among the natives of the South Pacific island of Nuku Hiva in 1842. This may partly be true, but there hardly remains any doubt that Melville also used his own imagination as well as other people’s travel reports when w
Markus Molina
May 25, 2014 rated it it was ok
Moby Dick is my favorite book of all time, and it's not even close. I figured if Typee was half as good, I'd have another book to love. It isn't half as good. It contains a lot of the dryness and descriptions of Moby Dick with none of the passion and deeper meaning. My rating is probably too low for what it is, which is a semi-autobiographical journey log, but for what I wanted, it did not deliver. Many of the chapters, Melville just breaks down the culture of the Typee people, and while I assum ...more
Oct 22, 2012 rated it it was ok
If hoping for swash and rollick - look elsewhere. Vitriol for missionaries and the Hawaiian Islands? Aplenty. Coming from the Jack London/Joseph Conrad/R.L.Stevenson fan club this seemed lacklustre - and what's with this partly-true, partly made-up business?? If he was marooned on a cannibal island, why not just tell that as it happened? Not exciting enough, fine, but make the *fiction* story exciting then, for Pete's sake!! (I've always avoided "Moby Dick", and feel quite justified after this.) ...more
Aug 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: star-star
Reading Mardi, very excited about it so far.

Typee was pastoral and exotic, but run through with tension fear and violence. Some great pithy passages about savagery vs. civilization. Stranger and sadder than I expected, with disturbing suggestions underneath a simple story.
Omoo, continuing the story, displays a 'civilized' island world, in ferocious contrast to that described in Typee. Some incredibly funny moments, as the colonizers and missionaries (mainly absent in Typee) are exposed to Melvi
Jun 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Listened to this recently in audio version from LibriVox ( A vividly told and well-observed first-person account of Melville's time among a preindustrial South Sea islander society that had minimal contact with the West. Part polemic, part adventure story, part amateur ethnography. The book that made Melville famous, before he blew his reputation on "Moby Dick." I was disappointed to learn later that much of it was made up. ...more
I have reviewed each of the three books in this volume separately, but inasmuch as the texts I read were the very ones used in this volume, I thought I'd review it. (I have it to hand, anyway, so I'll also comment on the packaging, font, etc.) The Library Of America is unrivaled in its textual authority, and the editors who worked on the Melville are Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker and G. Thomas Tanselle. These texts are the Northwestern-Newberry texts, so, if you read any single novel by Herma ...more
Brian Bess
Sep 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
There is little evidence while reading Typee that its author would in only five years produce a major work of world literature such as Moby-Dick. There is the common fact that both of them are seagoing narratives that present much factual information delivered primarily to assure the reader of their authenticity as well as the proof that their author really does know something of the subject matter of which he is writing. Beyond that, however, they bear completely different intentions.

Accepted l
Nov 01, 2008 rated it it was ok
Melville's first book is a curious, unsatisfying, unlikely affair, which does show off Melville’s incipient facility with language and jokes and also his ability to build and maintain narrative tension; but the writing is irritatingly verbose and the whole book could be cut by a third without losing anything. Beyond that, this supposedly true narrative has been contradicted with facts that scholars have presented in the time since the book came out (facts that weren’t available to the readers in ...more
Matt B.
Mar 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As with other Library of America editions, this book is excellent if all you need is the primary text(s); LoA editions do not include much in the way of scholarly notes or commentary (sometimes there will be a "note on the text" but, generally, nothing more). LoA editions being uniform, I have always found them to be of high quality, meaning the paper is a nice, bright white; the font is clear and pleasant; and, of course, each book is hardbound.

Typee and Omoo, the first two novels Melville wrot
Nov 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
I went into this not really knowing much about Melville (other than having read Moby Dick a few years ago) and really enjoyed it. Melville obviously spent quite a bit of time on the ocean and with the Typee's and his descriptions of them are fascinating. My favorite parts though were his descriptions of simple things where he plays with language - you can really tell he just loves words, for example this passage describing the flies he encountered:

"He will perch upon one of your eye-lashes, and
Dec 06, 2009 rated it liked it
My interest, in going chronologically through Melville's early works, is in watching the growth of the craftsman. The first two, Typee and Omoo, are both semi-biographical travelogues and adventure chronicles that detail the exotic locales of the South Pacific islands. Even at the time of publication, their content would have been sensational, but hardly groundbreaking.

In Typee, the narrator jumps ship and finds himself living as a captive among a native island tribe (the Typee), who may or may
Jan 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
This was a pretty good many ways it was better than Moby Dick; but really it was just different...sorta...

In the same style as Moby Dick, this story was told in almost an anthropological point of view. What made it even more interesting for me is that I knew the author had actually spent 2 years on a polonesian island.

So, there is little plot, but tons of descriptions of culture and environment; you really feel like you are getting to understand the tribes of this island. The bit of
Ashley Spradlin
Dec 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
Melville jumps ship and lives among the noble savages for a while. He wants to leave and avoid being eaten, but is trapped and doesn't want to upset them. He tends to go on and on (and on) about certain things, such as the cannibals' processes for making food and textiles, but redeems himself otherwise. Suspenseful and interesting. I used this as a warm-up exercise for Moby Dick. ...more
Jan 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
An adventure story set in a doubtful Eden that allows for nuance.
Ryan Lawson
Two weeks on this book! Aye, reader, as I breathe, two weeks with no other manuscript in sight; chasing after its ending under the hefty pressure of its lines, and thrown on the swells of the author’s long-winded thoughts—the pages within, the chapters all around, and not one other thing!

Of course, it wasn’t all that bad; but my botched attempt at mimicking the Melvillian voice is an adverse effect that lingers after reading his first novel, Typee. And, what a first novel it is. After having spe
Charles  Beauregard
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
I saved many quotes from this book. I had coincidentally read Germania by Tactitus just before reading this and there are more than several similarities and I really enjoyed them both.

Another connection is with Montaigne's essay 'Of Cannibalism' which has many of the same sentiments that Melville shows in this novel.
Oct 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
I feel I know Queequeg better now.
John Sgammato
Apr 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed Typee. I liked the characters and the descriptions of the setting, and I do enjoy Melville's little diversions into the value of breadfruit or the nature of Taboo or the idiosyncracies of Polynesian speech and the Typee dialect.
This was a good book to read at bedtime, one or two chapters at a time like a nightcap, to relax the mind on a remote island at a faraway time. Now I have to read _Omoo_!
I found the ending fascinating in its construction, for the time that it was written
Dec 13, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: american-lit
A kind of adolescent "Moby-Dick", "Typee" skims the surface of what that great American novel explores and employs thoroughly: namely, delightfully sophisticated prose (minus the dozen or so historical, literary, and mythological allusions per page), the shaking of the average Westerner's moral-philosophical framework, and a kind of investigative research into an increasingly mysterious and complex subject. The subject here is certainly not whales or whale-hunting (although he briefly refers to ...more
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Herman Melville was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. His first two books gained much attention, though they were not bestsellers, and his popularity declined precipitously only a few years later. By the time of his death he had been almost completely forgotten, but his longest novel, Moby Dick — largely considered a failure d

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