Hawaiian history is one of those subjects that can be daunting to know where to even start reading. There are so many choices, covering so many spans of time, as well as an enormity of well-written (and poorly-written) books out there.
However, even with such variety, there is always room for exploration, and Hawaii-born novelist and writer Susanna Moore provides us an opportunity to look at Hawaii’s history in a unique and engaging way.
Whether one is familiar with the history of the islands or not, “Paradise of the Pacific” does a marvelous job of exploring the ancient culture of Hawaii, the era of first Western contact, the involvement of the Christian missionaries, and up until the looming annexation by the United States.
“Paradise” is not a mere retelling of events, but rather a view of this history through the eyes of the very people who where there at the time, by their own words. Additionally, Moore’s eloquent and flowing prose provides the context for these historical personal perspectives, and does so with an effort not to place judgment one way or the other on the parties involved, but rather allowing the reader to decide for themselves — always a welcomed approach.
From the unique vantages such as the early explorers to Hawaii, the missionaries, members of the Hawaiian royalty, and others, we get to learn about the life and customs of the pre-contact Hawaiians, and how the arrival of other cultures began a rapid shift in Hawaii’s traditional values, behaviors and beliefs within the span of only a century.
Noted and respected Hawaii authors such as Paul Theroux (“Hotel Honolulu”) and Kaui Hart Hemmings (“The Descendants”) have also spoken highly of “Paradise of the Pacific,” and there is little doubt this book will continue to be appreciated for years to come.
Cynthia Lynn and Ed Justus are owners of The Bookstore in Hanapepe.