Robin's Reviews > Return to Paradise

Return to Paradise by James A. Michener
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's review
Jan 16, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: cultural-studies, history-world, travel-world
Read from December 10, 2012 to January 15, 2013

Imagine reading a James Michener book with only two titles on the “also by this author” attribution page! Written in the late 1940s, these short stories are tales and recollections from Michener’s post-WWII revisit to the south Pacific islands. From his perspective, much has changed since the war on most islands. From our perspective, this is a historical snapshot of a south Pacific adjusting to cultural changes brought about by WWII. It depicts a transitional time before the south Pacific became a popular—and populated—vacation spot for Americans and Europeans.

Many of the stories recall WWII events, as revisiting islands such as Guadalcanal bring up memories for Michener. One of my favorites of these is the story of a fictional family in New Zealand during the war. As many New Zealand men were lost in battles in the Pacific and Europe, New Zealand was suddenly vulnerable to Japanese attack. British and Americans eventually provided defense, and the clash of between these cultures is portrayed through the romantic encounters of the sisters in the family while the men are away at war. As usual, Michener’s characters are products of their cultures, but not without their own personal oddities.

In addition to Michener’s usual historically based yarns and personal recollections, he deeply ponders sociological situations as people from different races occupy various islands. For example, he cites the rise of east Indian population and the decimation of natives on Fiji between 1891 and 1936 with some alarm. A quick fact check proved that these figures stabilized before 1980, but his statistics show us reason for his concern.

Throughout, this book is written with Michener’s brilliance for describing lush scenery, quirky characters, clashing cultures, and everyday actions that make men and women heroes or heels. Definitely a must-read for Michener or “Tales of the South Pacific” fans.

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