Tag Archives: James Norman Hall

GREAT SUMMER READS (2018)

‘Don’t Walk Under the Coconuts’ by Robert Borden

Fed up with bitter Montana winters, Robert and Mary Lou are determined to find a nice place in the tropics they could escape to when temperatures in their home state drop below zero. A little island in the Cooks seems to be a natural choice.

While in paradise, the couple starts to enjoy the simplest things in life. With no rush, no stress, and no schedule to keep, they can do exactly what and when they want.

This is such a perfect read for all those lazy summer days! Its slow pace and beautiful descriptions will make you want to leave everything behind and travel to your own ‘slice of heaven’. Robert Borden definitely knows how to create a summer ambience. He is a born storyteller, so if you are in need of a good tale, this is a book for you.

‘Aged In Saltwater: A Journey Through the Pacific Islands’ by R. K. “Dick” Williams

When Dick is asked if he’s interested in a sail to the South Pacific, he simply can’t say ‘no’. Sailing across the Blue Continent just must be a great adventure, right? Especially for a 22-year-old man.

On board the Blue Orpheus, Dick learns what it really means to be at sea. Enduring harsh weather conditions, going through life-or-death crises, and dealing with unexpected and often unwanted situations is a thrust into adulthood few people experience.

Adventure-lovers will love this travelogue. It’s an exciting, thrilling piece of literature that will keep any reader on the edge of their seat; a white-knuckle ride on the high seas, told with humour, wit, and a generous dose of honesty.

‘Waking Up in Eden: In Pursuit of an Impassioned Life on an Imperiled Island’ by Lucinda Fleeson

Tired of her life, Lucinda desperately needs an escape. When the opportunity arises to take a job in Hawaii, she asks herself: ‘Why not?’

Becoming a fundraiser for the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Kauai seems like a dream come true. After all, who wouldn’t want to live in paradise? But as Lucinda soon finds out, Hawaii is paradise only in travel brochures.

Lucinda Fleeson’s story makes for an incredibly engaging tale. It’s a very personal memoir, enriching and uplifting on so many levels. But it’s also a fun, summer book. As a former journalist, the author knows exactly how to make certain topics both thought-provoking and enjoyable to read.

‘Faery Lands of the South Seas’ by James Norman Hall and Charles Bernard Nordhoff

Fascinated by the islands of the South Seas, James Norman Hall and Charles Nordhoff decide to set out on a journey of their dreams.

In Oceania, they get a rare chance to experience real Polynesian life. As they spend time with friendly Islanders, they discover a completely different yet thoroughly enchanting world of ancient customs, traditions, beliefs, and legends.

Sometimes we all want to go back in time. This travelogue will take you to the Pacific of the colonial era, showing you what the islands were like in the past. Both authors are phenomenal writers – their stories are not only interesting but also wonderfully told.

‘Royal Visit to Tonga: Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh’ by Kenneth Bain

When the Kingdom of Tonga receives a message that Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip will visit the archipelago, the whole country immediately gets to work. Everyone pitches in with making decorations and preparing food, so all is ready when the Royal couple arrives.

After months of expectation, the joyful day finally comes. The Islanders, excited to host such honourable guests, begin the celebrations.

The account of 1953 Royal Visit to Tonga is a great book to indulge in before this autumn’s tour of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to Australia and Oceania. It’s a very interesting and even more informative read that casts insights on the South Pacific kingdom and its culture.

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‘FAERY LANDS OF THE SOUTH SEAS’ BY JAMES NORMAN HALL, CHARLES BERNARD NORDHOFF

‘Faery Lands of the South Seas’ is a travelogue written by James Norman Hall and Charles Bernard Nordhoff. It recounts their various adventures in the Blue Continent, mainly in French Polynesia and the Cook Islands. This is the second book the two men co-authored.

FAERY LANDS OF THE SOUTH SEAS

Summary

Fascinated by the islands of the South Pacific, James Norman Hall and Charles Nordhoff decide to set out on a journey that would fulfil their dream of an escape.

After making a landfall in Tahiti, the two friends choose to take different routes. However, before going their separate ways, they arrange for a rendezvous at a distant date.

As they travel from shore to shore, Hall and Nordhoff encounter the most charming and intriguing individuals, who warmly welcome the unexpected guests into their little worlds. The visitors are given a rare chance to observe local communities and get to know their customs, traditions, and beliefs. Leisurely wandering through the lush paradise, they spend their time listening to amazing tales, legends, and stories of the past. They also learn quite a bit about the islands’ half-caste population – people that belong ‘neither here, nor there’.

Review

This travelogue is a classic of the South Seas genre. It’s written in a style reminiscent of Robert Louis Stevenson, so you may imagine that it not only entertains and delights but also educates. The book is a fantastic history lesson. Like a time machine, it takes you to the beating heart of colonial Polynesia, where you get a guided tour of some of the most fascinating places on Earth. It sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, doesn’t it? Well, that’s exactly what it is.

As this title is a collaboration between two authors, the stories vary widely. James Norman Hall focuses mainly on society; his accounts are filled with perceptive depictions of people’s daily activities, habits, and practices. He is the one that shows readers the now-famous ‘Pasifika way of life’. His careful and extremely detailed observations provide startling insights into the islands’ culture of the early 1900s, letting you understand this unique corner of the globe slightly better. Especially valuable are the notes he took during his unplanned stay on Rutiaro – the lonely atoll ‘as little known to the world at large as it has always been’.

Charles Nordhoff, on the other hand, is a storyteller. With a thousand words, he paints a vivid picture of the colourful lands, golden shores with swaying palm trees, azure lagoons sparkling in the dusk. His poetic imagery, which appeals to all the senses, allows you to experience everything he describes – from a voyage aboard an old schooner to a friendly gathering on the beach. It’s quite impossible not to be moved by Nordhoff’s writings – each and every tale exudes great charm and yet is still solidly anchored in reality.

Two authors usually mean two different styles. You would think this couldn’t result in a good book. Well, Hall and Nordhoff’s marriage was a perfect one – an ideal combination of talent, vision, and skills. This can certainly be seen in ‘Faery Lands of the South Seas’. The travelogue is characterized by coherent, smoothly flowing narration that is a pleasure to read. It might not be the most acclaimed work of the two friends, nevertheless it deserves to be considered a masterpiece – an artfully written, unraveling, and thoroughly enjoyable. And as such it should never be forgotten.

I could not recommend this title more. It engages both the mind and the spirit. It won’t appeal to everybody, but if you are a Pasifika aficionado, give it a try. It is one of the best of its kind.