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Return To Paradise (1984)

Return to Paradise (1984)

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3.75 of 5 Votes: 2
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0449206505 (ISBN13: 9780449206508)

About book Return To Paradise (1984)

James Michener once again takes us to the South Pacific. This unusual collection comprises short essays about various Pacific islands with each one then followed by a fictional story set in the same locale.Michener's essays are OK, if a bit rambling. They offer some decent anthropological insights into the politics and sociology of these melting pots of humanity, especially as they were in the mid 20th-century. Michener assesses the natural beauty of these far-flung places as well as the perils of the landscape, including the ever-present ocean and the fecund jungle. He gives assessments of the character and personality of the various islands and their indigenous and immigrant people groups. He reflects on the effects of colonization, both pro and con. But although the essays provide context, the stories are actually the stronger material in this book.The stories range in quality of course, but at their best they strikingly capture the disconnect between our civilized selves and our more primal emotions and desires. And Michener does not always come out in favor of civilization; in fact at times it is clear that he sees so-called "civilized" behavior as masking the greater evils. In the Pacific islands Michener seems to have discovered a metaphor for the struggle between a controlled and controlling rationality and a vibrant and deep connection with emotions and desires. And while it is clear that the latter approach has its own perils, Michener appears to admire the clarity and directness of it.The best stories here include "The Mynah Birds," about star-crossed lovers in Fiji, "The Story" in which a writer is accosted by an island drifter who has the perfect idea for a novel, "Until They Sail" which describes the cost New Zealand women paid for having so many of their men fight in WWII and "The Jungle," the story of an American couple on a boat between Australia and Guadalcanal whose marriage is struggling. Michener sometimes relies on characters that feel a bit clichéd, but his ability to evoke time and place is terrific and he knows the South Pacific very well. If you want to take a trip to another time and place, you could do a lot worse than this collection of essays and stories.

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.

Do You like book Return To Paradise (1984)?

In a way, different from Tales From the South Pacific----yet similar also as regards the non-fiction chapters. You can really see where Michener started his signature writing----the in-depth history of a state or area mixed in with fiction. This book does it in a very formal way, alternating non-fiction and fiction (short story) chapters. I was fascinated since it is certainly a period piece---prices of things in the early 50's, for example. Good book---good history (which was current events when Michener wrote it!). Will probably tackle Rascals in Paradise next, or at least soon.
—Lynne Pennington

After the phenomenal success of his first novel "Tales of the South Pacific", James Mitchener returns to the Pacific islands to write his next great Geographical novel, "Return to Paradise". Written after spending a year with his wife in the various islands of the South Pacific in the late 1940s, Michener writes this fascinating novel as a prototype to the kind of geographical novels that Michener would devote most of the rest of his life writing; novels like "Chesapeake", "Texas", "Poland" and "Centennial"."Return to Paradise" is actually a combination travelogue-short story collection set in the various islands of the South Pacific. Michener will take one chapter describing a given island, such as Tahiti, Fiji, Guadalcanal, New Guinea, New Zealand or Australia, and then devotes the next chapter to a short story set in that island. In this way, Michener paints a very vivid picture of each island, it's geography, the people who inhabit it and the foreigners who have come to claim it. Michener's short stories illustrate in a wonderful way the Polynesians who inhabited the islands along with the various ethnic groups who have migrated there, from the Chinese of Tahiti to the Vietnamese of Santo Spiritu to the Indians of Fiji and of course the British of Australia and New Zealand. Michener also discusses the various foreign beachcombers and adventurers who have come to make these beautiful islands their own paradise. It is really a fascinating story.The only thing that I did not like about "Return to Paradise" is the travelogue-short story back and forth that characterizes the novel. While this format is informative, it is hard to really get into the book when each chapter radically changes its focus. Michener's later books are much better and grabbing the reader's attention and keeping it throughout.Still, I would highly recommend this novel, especially to those who love a good story of the South Seas!

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