cover image Captive Paradise: A History of Hawaii

Captive Paradise: A History of Hawaii

James L. Haley. St. Martin's, $29.99 (448p) ISBN 978-0-312-60065-5

This expansive work from historian and novelist Haley (Wolf: The Lives of Jack London) focuses on Hawaii's annexation by the United States. Weaving a vast web of culture clashes amid the military and ideological conquests that turned native Hawaiians into "strangers in their own land," Haley delivers his narrative through big personalities: royalty, missionaries, and conquerors of various backgrounds. His excellent exploration of the legendary figures of Hawaiian culture avoids the revisionist tendency to "rhapsodize over the natives' lost innocence" and "gloss over the horrors of precontact life." Haley examines the popularly—and rightfully—maligned forces of "American avarice" alongside the lesser known influences of "French thuggery and British vacillation" that helped breed "native acolytes" of Western thought. This balanced perspective is certainly welcome in the canon of Hawaiian history, which is often beset by political agendas. Although the 20th century receives an all-too-brief summary that begs for a follow-up volume, this is an otherwise eye-opening study of Hawaii before it became a modern tourism capital—the Hawaii which continues to fascinate Westerners today. (Nov.)