In this "sequel" to the more highly regarded TALES OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC, author Michener adopts a somewhat different format. For each of the South Pacific islands included, he first writes an essay about its history and culture. He follows the essay with fiction, an original story set on that island. He not only writes about such obvious choices as Tahiti and Fiji; he also includes both Australia and New Zealand. His story set in New Zealand, a World War II homefront piece entitled UNTIL THEY SAIL, later became a film. That's the one part of this book that I remembered clearly, after a good 40 years, when I sat down to read RETURN TO PARADISE for the second time.
Michener's essays describe the South Pacific as it was in the late 1940s, several years before this "tail end" baby boomer was born, so today's reader needs to approach them as history and treat them accordingly. As such, they're intriguing. Some of the accompanying stories are equally dated, but I was surprised to find others echoing with human dilemmas only too familiar in today's world. UNTIL THEY SAIL didn't disappoint me a bit when read from a mature (think "old enough to be a grandma") woman's viewpoint, even though I last read it as a girl not long into adolescence. It helped me understand my parents' generation, then. This time around it reminded me that what happens to men and women separated (or brought together) by war is universal, and its dynamics never change.
Michener is always worth reading. 5 stars for sheer durability!