Captive Paradise

January 13, 2015 History, Narrative Non-Fiction, non-fiction, Review 12 ★★★★

Captive ParadiseTitle: Captive Paradise
Author: James L. Haley
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads

Despite having covered American history multiple times in school, I knew nothing about the way Hawaii became part of the US. It turns out, it’s a fascinating story! This history begins with Captain Cook’s arrival on the islands and the state of native culture at the time. From then on, everything is conflict. There’s a struggle between different world powers to make use of Hawaii economically, a culture clash between missionaries and  Hawaiians who want preserve native traditions, and several tumultuous changes in the Hawaiian government. The history ends with the annexation of Hawaii, but I’d love to learned even more about the aftermath of annexation.

Typically, I prefer books that proceed in strictly chronological order, but I actually liked that this book didn’t. The beginning gave an overview of some early Hawaiian history before diving into all the political and genealogical details, which I thought was very helpful. A cast list would have been even better, but I eventually felt as though I was able to get a handle on who everyone was. Once I got into it, I enjoyed the complex relationships and politics a lot. I also found the Hawaiian culture and the reactions of explorers to Hawaiian culture very interesting.

As you might have gathered from my summary, there was a lot of action in this book. The revolutions and the stand-offs reminded me of my favorite adventure narrative nonfiction and were my favorite parts of the book. Other parts were a bit dry and read too much like a list of facts for my taste. I suspect that having to keep track of all the many different people in the political sections were a big part of that and again, a cast list would probably have helped with this. Overall, this was a enjoyable read and I learned a lot of fun facts, but it didn’t quite blow me away the way more action-packed narrative nonfiction books have.

12 Responses to “Captive Paradise”

  1. Jancee @ Jancee Reads

    Have you read anything by Sarah Vowell? She did a book on the annexation of Hawaii that I thought was very good. I read it a few years back, you might like it as well. It’s called “Unfamiliar Fishes”.

    • DoingDewey

      I read Vowell’s Assassination Vacation and didn’t like it very much, but looking back at the comments, I see that Andi didn’t like this on either but did enjoy The Partly Cloudy Patriot, so it’s possible I’d like some of her other books better. I’m definitely not ready to give her another try yet, but maybe someday 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      I’ve heard that reading books before you go places can be fun and I’ve also heard it can make you have unrealistic expectations, but I think this would mostly just be fun. Since it doesn’t describe the way Hawaii is now, but the way it was, I think it could be interesting background to have and shouldn’t influence what you expect too much either 🙂 I hope you have a great trip!

  2. Aylee

    Woah having read this it occurs to me that I know nothing about Hawaii’s history! Well, I’ve learned a lot about its geology, but not the politics and revolutions. It’s interesting that you say that this book didn’t proceed in strict chronological order and yet it actually worked better that way.

    • DoingDewey

      I’m always surprised when a book manages to do thing not in chronological order and it works! I think with heavier nonfiction topics especially covering the same material in a couple of ways can be helpful, but it has to be done carefully to avoid getting even more confusing.

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