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South Sea Tales (Oxford World's Classics) [Paperback]

Robert Louis Stevenson , Roslyn Jolly
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

8 May 2008 Oxford World's Classics
The literary world was shocked when in 1889, at the height of his career, Robert Louis Stevenson announced his intention to settle permanently on the Pacific island of Samoa. His readers were equally shocked when he began to use the subject material offered by his new environment, not to promote a romance of empire, but to produce some of the most ironic and critical treatments of imperialism in nineteenth-century fiction.

In these stories, as in his work generally, Stevenson shows himself to be a virtuoso of narrative styles: his Pacific fiction includes the domestic realism of `The Beach at Falesé, the folktale plots of `The Bottle Imp' and `The Isle of Voices', and the modernist blending of naturalism and symbolism in The Ebb-Tide. But beyond their generic diversity the stories are linked by their concern with representing the multiracial society of which their author had become a member. In this collection - the first to bring together all his shorter Pacific fiction in one volume - Stevenson emerges as a witness both to the cross- cultural encounters of nineteenth-century imperialism and to the creation of the global culture which characterizes the post-colonial world.
ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; Reissue edition (8 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199536082
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199536085
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 16.7 x 1.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 229,663 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


a real treasure. ... RLS at his most serious and playful. (Daily Telegraph Arts and Books section, 19 July 1997)

About the Author

is Lecturer in English at the University of New South Wales, Australia. She is the author of

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
I SAW that island first when it was neither night nor morning. Read the first page
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars stevenson on top of his game 10 April 2012
By fabrice
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Really really good grown up stuff, elegant and modern. As good as Conrad without the darkness and long boring bits; as good as Kipling without the whimsy. Forget his classic childrens stuff. When he voyages he becomes a different man, tough, urbane and very sardonically funny.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 31 July 2014
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stevenson's retelling of Pacific island legends & stories 21 May 2007
By George Coppedge - Published on
Towards the end of Robert Louis Stevenson's life in the late 1880's, he had to move to the Pacific islands for his health. He managed to visit many of the most famous locales while there, including Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa, the Gilberts, the Marshalls, and many besides these. He listened to and recorded both native legends and sailors' stories, besides creating a few original stories of his own.

The book contains the following stories: The Beach of Falesa, The Bottle Imp, The Isle of Voices, The Ebb-Tide: A Trio and Quartette, and two very short stories. The book also contains a very lengthy literary overview and critique of Stevenson's work, which I would recommend skipping until after you've read the book. Thankfully, it also contains a map, which you will repeatedly refer to.

The Beach of Falesa is about a European trader (Wiltshire) who takes up residence in the fictitious island of Falesa, whereupon he is hoodwinked by a fellow European (Case) into buying a worthless business and marrying an untouchable girl. Wiltshire then determines to unseat Case from his position of dominance among the natives, so he (Wiltshire) can make good on his business and restore his wife Uma to respectibility. This story like the others that follow are true character studies of both human weakness and resolve.

The Bottle Imp is the story of a native Hawaiian who gets his genie in a bottle to grant him his wishes. But though his wishes are made true and he wins the heart of the girl of his dreams, he becomes both arrogant and cursed with leprosy. He is believed to be a devil by his neighbors. Forced into exile with a wife who believes that he doesn't love her, he desperately seeks out the genie once more to cure his illness. Then he can be with her again, but at the price of external damnation. Or is there still a way out?

The Isle of Voices is also a story about greed and lust. One young Hawaiian man (Keola) yearns for a native girl, but lacks the material wealth for a comfortable marriage. So his girlfriend's father magically takes him to the mysterious and frightful Isle of Voices where treasure lies at his feet simply waiting to be picked up. Not sated with slight and trivial wealth, Keola determines to treacherously seize a vast fortune despite being ominously forbidden by the father. However, Keola's plan is overturned, and he is doomed to learn the secret of the Isle of Voices.

The Ebb-Tide is about three washed up derelict sailors of varying criminal aptitudes who take up the job of delivering an abandoned cargo ship to Australia. However, the ship's European company have all died of smallpox, and everyone believes the ship to be cursed. So, Herrick, Davis, and Huish let sail - but to sell the cargo themselves and then take up as pirates. As the trio complete their dangerous moral and legal fall into piracy and murder, they come upon a queer island loaded with wealth. But will they survive what lies ahead?

Overall, I enjoyed the book, but I wasn't engrossed in it. Skip the introduction, or you won't continue reading the book. Go straight to the stories. All the stories are good, but the Ebb-Tide is probably the best.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some enjoyable South Pacific yarns 2 Jan 2006
By LostMarble - Published on
I don't know why no one has reviewed this volume before. It is a good readable edition of several of Stevenson's South Sea stories, including the rarely encountered novel The Ebb Tide. The introduction is interesting enough, and the footnotes are very helpful for expressions in the Beach-la-Mar pidgin dialect and nautical terms. This is Stevenson's most mature fiction and is a far cry from Kidnapped and the Child's Garden of Verses.
5.0 out of 5 stars South Sea Tales 29 Mar 2014
By Helen K - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book arrived quickly, in good shape, thank you. I have yet to read it, but ordered it after I read the Nancy Horan book about Stevenson.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Robert Louis Stevenson will be allways considered one of the best novelists of the world 29 Jun 2008
By Waldir Freitas Oliveira - Published on
I'm read "Treasure Island" at my childhood, when I were eight years old.
As I'ma writing a book named "Real and imginaries islands", focusing 20 famous islands mentioned at the Universal literature, the island of Stevenson is the first commented in my book. A new reading gave me the chance to meet again Long John Silver with his parrot "Captain Flint" and Jim Hawkins. The mature man and the child were once more next, and I' had a great plesure to read again this novel. Sighting the cronology of Robert Louis Stevenson, I see that there is 120 years from his depart from San Francisco, California, aboard the "Casco", for the South Seas. And i can affirm that "In the South Seas" is a marvellous description of this part of the world. The "South Sea Tales", assembling "The Beach of Falesa", "Thee Bottle IMP", "The Isle of Voices" and "The Ebb-Tide" is a beautiful book and in it, the author has denoucen the action of europeans and north-americans at the South Seas as a disastrous interfering on the culture of the native peoples of the islands of Pacific Ocean, with the goal to domaine them and to take their lands. The courageous words of Robert Louis Stevenson denouncing the merchants and the missionaries as factors to serve the economic interests of Europa ean North America shows as R.L. Stevenson were capable to see the real motifs of their presence at that region. The reading of "South Sea Tales" give us the chance to underatand the right History of the Pacific. It's a pleasure to read "South Sea Tales".
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK for mixed Stevenson Island Literature 4 Oct 2007
By divad sorcron - Published on
I agree with Mr. Coppedge. RLS's "island literature" is uneven, as a read of this book will reveal. For a real treat, read his "In the South Seas". Now that is a treasure.
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