Hawaii has always been a mystery to me, a Midwest native. The rest of Manifest Destiny seems as reasonable as spilled milk spreading over the surface of a table. But islands in the Pacific? Well, now I know a great deal more about Hawaiian history than I do about, say, Oregon history.
Sarah Vowell has the kind of voice that you either find a pleasure or you don't, I suppose. Fortunately, I do. I often don't like when authors read their own works because writing and reading aloud are not the same skills, but Vowell definitely knows how to do both. She writes with a sly sense of humor and has the timing to make it work in an audiobook. There were moments I laughed aloud.
She does an excellent job of bringing the history to life and linking it to the present with her own time spent on the island. What a great gig, huh? Write a book about Hawaiian history. Spend a couple of years there researching. I wish I'd thought of it.
So, why do I give the story only 3 stars? Well, I think much like the history of Hawaii itself, it goes out with a fizzle more than a bang. There's not much even an author of Vowell's caliber can do with the material. Those hooeys just end up taking power from the natives until there isn't much for the Polynesian natives to do but eventually go along with it, much like native Americans. The sexy story is when the natives fight back, not when they've given up, by choice or by force. It's like that in Hawaii, too. A handful of people in the present protesting that they aren't Americans is nothing compared to someone killing Captain Cook on his way back to the sailing ship.
I would hope those 3 stars wouldn't discourage anyone from choosing this book. It is beautifully written and you'll come away with a richer awareness of the history of Hawaii.
Say something about yourself!
I appreciate the amount of research sarah does on everything. she is a great writer. I guess Hawaii dosnt do it for me? well worth the history and sarahs take on it.
I read Shoal of Time and then listened to this to learn more about Hawaiian history from two perspectives. This book seemed well researched but is unliked by many kama'aina. All the timeline connections and references really helped. I always zoned out in history class - who knew there was a big land grab of the Phillipines, Guam, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Cuba in 1898. I am glad I own it so I can listen again; too much in one pass to absorb. The sarcastic wit kept my attention enough to mostly overlook the bit grating timbre in Sara's voice. I recommend it.
true crime fan
I love reading Sarah Vowell books as she is so funny (in a dry, sardonic way) and I always learn things that were never discussed in any of my history classes. While I am really intrigued with learning more about my country's history, so many history-themed books are dry and boring. Sure, I learn things but it is difficult to pay attention when I am reading or listening to a bunch of facts that seem to have no relevence to the present day. Sarah Vowell inserts humorous metaphors and asides to make these "facts" resonate a bit more.
This was not my favorite of her books, but there were some very interesting parts and I learned quite a bit, as usual. Kind of sad to find that once again, the U.S. saw a piece of land and set out to steal it using "manifest destiny" as an excuse to trick the indigenous people into giving away their land for very little or no money based upon promises that would never come to be. If you have never read Sarah Vowell, I definitely recommend reading any of her books.
I have a very solitary job, so I have quite a few hours to listen to books every week. I try to rate this books fairly, as I hate the 1 star or 5 star trend. 5 stars shall be reserved for the best of the best. 3 stars is still a good book to me.
no, very dry book, even more dry reading
there wasn't a performance. it was a very dry reading, with a voice that grated on my ears after a short period
disappointment. Bought it based on Leo Laporte's recomendation on twit. regretted it 5 minutes in.
I'm not sure why this book gets so much praise.
Sarah Vowell just speaks to me. We read this for my book club and some members found her "arrogant" or "flippant"-- like those were BAD things??? OK, maybe she is a bit flippant, but that's her charm. I read this book and listened to it TWICE, so maybe I just "got it" and they didn't.
Aside from her irreverant style (which is why love her writing), her books are filled with wonderful historical facts--things you just did not learn in History class! If you find history dry and boring, give one of Sarah Vowell's books a try.
I would have liked the author to have worked with a native speaker to iron out her horrific pronunciation of the Native Hawai'ian words but, otherwise, I think that Ms. Vowell did a nice job.
I didn't even know this book was about Hawaii when I turned it on. I had just heard Sarah Vowel on NPR and was immediately compelled to get one of her books. This history kept me fascinated from the beginning and turned me into a Sarah Vowell addict. I suddenly feel educated.
Say something about yourself!
I am one of those who had a bad reaction to her voice. If I could give no stars for performance I would have. It did not "grow" on me. Nasally, then, lispy. What is there to "grow" on the listener? Few, very few authors can read their own writing and get away with it. Stephen King can. So can David Sedaris. Indeed David's voice is part of the charm. Not so here. Not so humorous, not so interesting. A great conceit and arrogance of the author in reading her own stuff. A dud for me.
I have quit on only a handful of over 800 books in my Audible library. This, alas, is one of those books. Overrated and much too self consciously precious for me. Save your credits!