Thursday, January 30, 2014

Book Review - Tales of the South Pacific

This year I planned to read the Pulitzer Prize winners in fiction, beginning with the first winner in 1948 (when the novel category was renamed fiction). We happened to have a copy of that book in our personal library. I believe I purchased it at a used book store after we saw the theater production of South Pacific several years ago (which I scrapbooked here), but I never took time to read the book.

I did not know that Tales of the South Pacificwas a series of short stories rather than a novel. The stories are somewhat related as they all occur during World War II in the South Pacific Islands and several of the characters show up in various chapters. However, it was hard to get invested and interested in the characters and to remember much about them when they showed up in a later story. The stories were all told from the perspective of one narrator who is mostly an observer in each story. In fact, the narrator doesn't really do much during the war, he wasn't even actively involved in the one battle that he describes. Overall I enjoyed the book but think I would have preferred one coherent story.

The stories are entertaining, but in all honesty the book portrays that most of the soldiers and sailors and marines spent an awful lot of time goofing off, playing practical jokes, buying things from the natives, stealing military items to trade, carousing with the females on the islands (natives and a few nurses), drinking, and waiting. Several battle and military campaigns are mentioned in various stories, and one chapter near the end of the book chronicles an actual battle. I read a little about the author, James A. Michener and learned that he had actually served in the South Pacific during the war. I wonder if he spent a lot of time goofing off, drinking, and waiting?

After completing this book, I've discovered a problem with my goal to read the Pulitzer Prize winners. My original plan was to read them in order, thus the 1949 winner, Guard of Honor, would be next on my list. However, it's not available at our local public library. There are some copies of it available through Amazon, but I like to save up a list of books and/or movies before we place an order, so it may be a little while before I get to it.

So, I've changed my plan and will simply not read them in order! I checked our personal library and discovered we own two other winners, which I'll read next. Then I'll see what our local public library has in as I'm ready for a new book.

Have you read Tales of the South Pacific? Seen the movie? Or the theater production?


  1. I haven't read this Melissa - you did well to get to the end despite its unsatisfactory nature. I am afraid that if I start to lose interest in a book these days, I simply don't persevere on the grounds that life is too short! Hoping the rest are better reads and looking forward to your reviews.

  2. I've watched the movie and a musical production but not read the book. I knew it was short stories and remember asking my Granddad who fought in the South Pacific about it - he felt it was a fairly accurate representation, as war tends to be a lot of hurry up and wait.

  3. I have not read this book either, but I have read other books about WWII in the South Pacific. If you have not read Unbroken----you MUST. The movie will be coming out soon. It ranks in my top 10 books of all time. The true story is so very inspiring. Beware, it's very hard to read in places.

  4. Good luck with reading your books.

    Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

  5. I haven't read this. But my dad served in the navy in the South Pacific during the war and we have some interesting photographs. It must have been quite a culture shock for a boy from a Welsh coal mining village

  6. I haven't read/watch (Tales From The) South Pacific but I find it interesting that the theatre production made for a more coherent and entertaining tale. I wonder why it won a prize? I read Catch 22 which was also a movie and very famous novel ... also depicting war as being a lot of (fearful) waiting where tensions and boredom were relieved in similar ways to those you have described. I didn't enjoy the book though.

  7. That's quite an ambitious goal. I've seen South Pacific multiple times--live performances and the movie--but never read the book. Don't think I will now that I've read your review.

  8. Nope, haven't read that one. I like Michener, but haven't read him in quite a while. Generally, I am not a fan of short stories collections either - not even my beloved mysteries.

  9. I'm like Karen. I've seen the movie (love it) and several theatre productions. In fact, we did it in high school. I read and loved Michener's Hawaii but not S.Pacific. Thanks for the review; looking forward to more!


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