James A. Michener, the master of historical fiction, revisits the scenes of his first great work, "Tales of the South Pacific, " the Pulitzer Prize winner that brought him international acclaim. In this sequel collection, Michener once again evokes the magic of the extraordinary isles in the Pacific--from Fiji and Gaudalcanal to New Zealand and Papua New Guinea--through stories that burst with adventure, charm, and local color. For Michener's many fans around the globe, "Return to Paradise "is a precious second look at a land of enchantment by one of the most gifted storytellers of the twentieth century. Praise for "Return to Paradise"" " "A brilliant book and a worthy successor to "Tales of the South Pacific.""--"The Atlanta Constitution"" " "This is a book that should be read by everyone. . . . All who have seen the South Pacific will find on every page the odors of frangipani, copra, blood, and beer."--"The New York Times"" " "There's drama and pathos and adventure and humanity . . . and a very high degree of excellence. Michener can write."--"Kirkus Reviews"
Return to Paradise is the follow-up to Tales of the South Pacific, the inspiration behind the acclaimed 1958 musical South Pacific (which my long-suffering husband took me to see at a local theater a few years ago – sadly, it’s pretty cheesy), so I recommend starting with Tales first, before jumping into Return.
The two books go hand-in-hand and are great read together. While Tales introduces us to the mystical island of Bali Hai (based off the real, and largely undeveloped to this day, Tahitian isle of Mo’orea), as you gather from the title, Return brings us back to the paradisaical islands of the South Pacific (not to be confused with Hawai’i, which is in the North Pacific).
Both books are organized in a series of vignette-like short stories, which could each be read on their own, but as a whole come together to make a whole novel. In Return, you’ll be swept away in 19 different tales taking you on adventures to places like Fiji, New Zealand, New Guinea, and more. Michener’s perspective has a solid authenticity, which is no surprise, as these short stories are rooted in the time he spent at many of these islands of the Pacific Theater (as its known) during World War II. And you definitely get these sense that Michener is not only “Returning” his audience to the South Pacific, but that by writing the stories, he’s longing to go back himself.
All of the stories are fascinating, but those that linger in the remote South Pacific islands are the most evocative. Michener’s style, I find is a bit of an “older style” that might seem a bit dry to the modern reader, however, if you want to relive your time in the islands, or evoke a “Calgon – Take Me Away” moment, then I highly recommend giving Return, and especially its predecessor Tales a shot.