First colonized around 200 A.D. by intrepid Polynesian islanders, Hawaii existed for hundreds of years in splendid isolation. Foreigners did not visit the islands until 1788, when Captain Cook, looking for the fabled Northwest Passage, stumbled upon this nation with its own belief system and culture. Three decades later, fourteen Calvinist missionaries left Boston bound for Hawaii, and when they arrived they converted the royal family to Christianity, and set up missionary schools where English was taught.
A thriving monarchy had ruled over Hawaii for generations. Taro fields and fish ponds had long sustained native Hawaiians but sugar plantations had been gradually subsuming them. This fractured, vulnerable Hawaii was the country that Queen Lili‘uokalani, or Lili‘u, inherited when she came to power at the end of the nineteenth century. Her predecessor had signed away many of the monarchy’s rights, but while Lili‘u was trying to put into place a constitution that would reinstate them, other factions were plotting annexation. With the help of the American envoy, the USS Boston steamed into Honolulu harbor, and Marines landed and marched to the palace, inciting the Queen’s overthrow. The annexation of Hawaii was extremely controversial; the issue caused heated debates in the Senate and President Cleveland gave a strongly worded speech opposing it. This was the first time America had reached beyond the borders of the continental U.S. in an act of imperialism. It was not until President McKinley was elected and the Spanish-American War erupted, that Hawaii became a critical strategic asset, and annexation finally passed Congress in 1898.
©2012 Julia Flynn Siler (P)2012 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
“Julia Flynn Siler's Lost Kingdom: Hawaii's Last Queen, the Sugar Kings, and America's First Imperial Adventure is a well-told history of the U.S. acquisition of Hawaii. The central figure is Lili'uokalani, who had the misfortune of being queen when Uncle Sam closed his grasp on the islands.” (The Seattle Times)
“[Julia Flynn] Siler captures… what Hawaii was then and what it has evolved into today. What happened to the islands is known as one of the most aggressive takeovers of the Gilded Age… Siler gives us a riveting and intimate look at the rise and tragic fall of Hawaii's royal family… [It] is a reminder that Hawaii remains one of the most breathtaking places in the world. Even if the kingdom is lost.” (Fortune)
“A sweeping tale of tragedy, greed, betrayal, and imperialism… The depth of her research shines through the narrative, and the lush prose and quick pace make for engaging reading… absorbing.” (Library Journal, Starred Review)
As a native of the island state of Hawai`i, I grabbed this book with interest as soon as I found it to be available. I began listening and quickly realized that the author has attempted to tell too much story, much like a newspaper or magazine article. I wish that she had chosen instead a subtopic, such as the rise and fall of the monarchy, a biography of Lili`uokalani, or the dreadful land grab by foreign entrepreneurs. There is much backstory to all of these subjects. Unfortunately, Ms. Siler only skimmed the surface. The overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy is still a very volatile subject in the islands, and the indigenous natives, even after more than a hundred years and a Presidential apology, still regard the "haole" as usurpers and thieves.
I am delighted, however, that there are those like Ms. Siler who continue to highlight the sad events of the Hawaiian people. This is a wound that can only be healed by enlightenment and education as to the actual events that transpired not so long ago. The history of Hawai`i, when viewed in retrospect, is no different from hundreds of other similar events that have taken place in the course of history. The Mongols subjugated the Chinese, the Romans subdued most of the civilized world in its day, the Spaniards overwhelmed the Mayans and the Americans conquered the Indians, ad infinitum.
This book, for the most part, follows the true chronological events of the past two hundred years. Perhaps the author tried to remain unbiased, but I felt the narrator was a little off-putting . Her rather condescending tone only exacerbated her horrible pronounciation of the Hawaiian language. I admit that for the untrained ear she may sound perfectly fine, but "auwe noho`i e!" (so sad!) it hurt my ears.
I am an avid eclectic reader.
I must say I knew nothing about Hawaiian history so I decided to read this book when I say it on the Audible front page. I found it most interesting and names I have heard but knew little about such as Dole, and Spreckles were brought to life in the book. On the other hand the book was sad in the telling of the treatment of the Hawaiian people not only with the diseases brought in by the whites but then taking everything away from them. Will we never learn? Now I would like to take a trip to Hawaii and seen the area's mentioned in the story including the palace. I found Joyce Bean's narration okay it was noticeable even to me that she was not a native speaker of Hawaiian but the rest of the narration was adequate.
I loved the book and the performance was strong (but nothing amazing, hence the 4 stars). I've read several histories of Hawai'i, and while the book could have been more comprehensive (what history book couldn't?), I thought it delved deep into most of the important points that lead to the annexation. Give it a read!
I would've thought that this book would've been written on a far larger scale. For example, I wanted a lot more about the prehistoric settlement of this most important island chain in Polynesia, which was the best environment for human settlement and where Polynesian cultures reached their zenith. Why was that? what were the ecological forces that made that happen? at the other end of the spectrum, Siler failed to place the takeover of Hawaii within the larger context of American imperialism. A reading of her book just makes the royals who guided Hawaii through the viper's nest of relations with the Great Powers look self-centered and thick. And this was at a time when absolute monarchy, although on the wane, still guided some of the largest empires in the world (Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary to name a few, with Britain in the constitutional monarchy camp). Why was the acquisition of Hawaii so important to the US, if not at the time then throughout the coming century? For me, all these very worthwhile questions were unexplored by the author to any great degree. Again Very Disappointing.
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