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The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling the Pacific [Kindle Edition]

Paul Theroux
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Paul Theroux invites us to join him on one of his most exotic and tantalizing adventures exploring the coasts and blue lagoons of the Pacific Islands, and taking up residence to discover the secrets of these isles.

Theroux is a mesmerizing narrator – brilliant, witty, keenly perceptive as he floats through Gauguin landscapes, sails in the wake of Captain Cook and recalls the bewitching tales of Jack London and Robert Louis Stevenson. Alone in his kayak, paddling to seldom visited shores, he glides through time and space, discovering a world of islands, their remarkable people, and in turn, happiness.

‘A sharp, fascinating and highly entertaining book … Theroux at his best’ Daily Telegraph.

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"Engaging and at times brilliant...he goes places where the rest of us might fear to paddle, often beaching his kayak on a small South Pacific island without the foggiest idea whether those awaiting him will be friendly, indifferent, or anxious to give him a good thwack...well worth reading." USA Today"A superb blend of sharp-eyed observation and pungently expressed opinion. It's hardly paradise, this lovely part of the world, but Theroux makes it endlessly fascinating." Newsday"Feisty, eloquent, and vast in scope...a multilayered odyssey." The San Francisco Chronicle"Perceptive, terribly readable, and wickedly funny...[An] exhilarating book." --Book Review The Los Angeles Times

About the Author

Paul Theroux's books include The Last Train to Zona Verde, Dark Star Safari, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, Riding the Iron Rooster, The Great Railway Bazaar, The Elephanta Suite, A Dead Hand, The Tao of Travel and The Lower River. The Mosquito Coast and Dr Slaughter have both been made into successful films. Paul Theroux divides his time between Cape Cod and the Hawaiian islands. His most recent work is Deep South.

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More About the Author

Paul Theroux was born and educated in the United States. After graduating from university in 1963, he travelled first to Italy and then to Africa, where he worked as a Peace Corps teacher at a bush school in Malawi, and as a lecturer at Makerere University in Uganda. In 1968 he joined the University of Singapore and taught in the Department of English for three years. Throughout this time he was publishing short stories and journalism, and wrote a number of novels. Among these were Fong and the Indians, Girls at Play and Jungle Lovers, all of which appear in one volume, On the Edge of the Great Rift (Penguin, 1996).

In the early 1970s Paul Theroux moved with his wife and two children to Dorset, where he wrote Saint Jack, and then on to London. He was a resident in Britain for a total of seventeen years. In this time he wrote a dozen volumes of highly praised fiction and a number of successful travel books, from which a selection of writings were taken to compile his book Travelling the World (Penguin, 1992). Paul Theroux has now returned to the United States, but he continues to travel widely.

Paul Theroux's many books include Picture Palace, which won the 1978 Whitbread Literary Award; The Mosquito Coast, which was the 1981 Yorkshire Post Novel of the Year and joint winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and was also made into a feature film; Riding the Iron Rooster, which won the 1988 Thomas Cook Travel Book Award; The Pillars of Hercules, shortlisted for the 1996 Thomas Cook Travel Book Award; My Other Life: A Novel, Kowloon Tong, Sir Vidia's Shadow, Fresh-air Fiend and Hotel Honolulu. Blindness is his latest novel. Most of his books are published by Penguin.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bitter and arrogant, with a few good points 20 Jan. 2015
By Luana
This is the first book of Paul Theroux that I've ever read, and I was quite disappointed, I don't think I will read more.
Here is why:
-No proofreading. For example, there are several repetitions (exactly the same sentence or half-sentence on the same page or so). The first example is found on page 7: "The Maori people, who had come to New Zealand via the Cook Islands from Tahiti about a thousand years ago [...]" And on the same page, a little further on: "[...] the Maoris, had arrived from Tahiti via the Cook Islands about a thousand years ago [...]".
This is not acceptable. English is not my mother tongue, so I imagine the lack of proofreading will be even more evident if you are native.

-As other reviews mentioned, Theroux's generalised observations on countries/people can range from "I don't agree but I accept this is his point of view" to something horribly similar to xenophobia. I get not everything is Paradise and not everyone is smiling, but the adjective he uses the most referring to other people is "stupid". "Dirty" is used a lot too. Well, what makes Paul Theroux think that most people he met are stupid? He doesn't explain, they just are. Here is an example, referring to Japanese people (who at this rate would probably rather be described as stupid): "Because it is a one-race, one-language, one-family island of desperate overachievers who have a fascist belief in their own racial superiority" and "These little people have a palpitating need to dominate the world and will do anything at all to sell their stuff" and he goes on and on...

-Other reviews mentioned that the book is a lot "about himself".
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3.0 out of 5 stars Bad food and boring Sundays 15 Jan. 2014
Paul Theroux (PT)is one of the greatest travel writers of the past few decades and also a prolific novelist. In 1990 he embarked on a new adventure, visiting coastal regions in New Zealand and Australia by kayak in preparation for the real deal, kayaking among the countless islands and islets of Melanesia and Polynesia. Why? His marriage is on the rocks, he thinks he has cancer, he wants to get away from London's literary scene. In the end, his voyage lasts some eighteen months and ends in Hawaii, where he has lived since. Early on his doctor assures him the stain on his arm is benign. His divorce became official in 1993.
How does an author cope during such a lengthy and physically exhausting adventure? And how do today's readers appreciate a book from 1992? This 600+ pp. tome is quite informative about PT himself, a fanatical non-smoker and fish eating vegetarian. Right from the start he is moody and opinionated about e.g. Australians, missionaries, Japanese and French. His anti-Japanese sentiment reflects the feelings of islanders who suffered during the WW II, caught in between the Japanese and US war machines. But PT's antipathy also fits perfectly with a brief period of US envy and paranoia in the early 1990s over Japan's rapid global economic ascent, best exemplified by the movie "Rising Sun" (1993), with Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes.
His railing against all things French is based on France's 160+ nuclear tests carried out in the region. Missionaries and colonial rule have had a deep impact on island cultures now largely (but not entirely) free of warfare and cannibalism. Since PT's voyage there have been violent episodes in New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands, Fiji. The islands are by and large very Christian and Sundays are very boring days.
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Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Absurd gobbledegook on almost every page - shocking really; I reported it to Amazon.

It didn't spoil it for me because this is in any case the most slapdash and least polished of his travel books, full of totally unpronounceable place names - so it seemed almost appropriate. But it's hugely readable and always interesting. Paul's marriage has broken down, he doesn't seem to know quite where he is with his writing, so he spends 18 months visiting 51 Pacific islands, obsessively paddling his collapsible kayak, often over huge distances in frightening-sounding conditions. Most of the writing is simple and straightforward. Almost 'I did this, then I did this.' Very little of the erudite literary wordsmith is in evidence this time. But one feels closer to him as a result. He's generous and bluntly critical in turns, an eccentric guide to all these fascinating, remote places.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful travel book 2 April 2013
It was great pleasure in reading Paul Theroux's "The happy isles of Oceania". He voyaged from the Solomon islands to Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Tahiti, the Marquesas to Fiji, and Easter Islands, etc, many of which were remoted and not easy to travel to. He met various types of people, strolled through exotic markets, tried some extreme cuisine, and heard very intriguing stories. It was very fasinating to learn that Methodist missionary enforced Christinanity religion rules on the islanders' life. Mr Theroux's findings also reminded me of the facts that the those Oceanic islands inspired the work of Robert Louis Stevenson.

It was a very charming, highly entertaining, and readable travel account, and I didn't feel that the book was published more than 20 years ago.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Terribly written book and i regret buying
I really wanted to get through this book purely out of respect to the writer.. But i couldn't. He is so negative from the very first page that it just discourages you to go... Read more
Published 6 months ago by aaa
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant book
loads of interesting information classic paul theroux just reread great bazaar and kingdom by sea and its better than both of them
Published 14 months ago by williamwalsh
3.0 out of 5 stars Not really as described.
The book was described as 'Used, but looks brand new....cover and binding are undamaged'

Both back and front covers are very worn and damaged and the book itself looks... Read more
Published 21 months ago by S. M. Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars Book review
Read this book many years ago. Wonderful story. Recommend it to others who are frustrated explorers :-) hope you enjoy it
Published 23 months ago by Trev
4.0 out of 5 stars No emotions hidden in this adventure tinged with international...
Paul Theroux does not pull his punches when describing personalities and places. French or Australian readers may not appreciate it as much as the English!
Published 23 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars This is real Travel writing
I find it confusing how other comments here complain that this book is too much 'about the author' - surely thats the whole point, otherwise go and buy a Lonely Planet guide -... Read more
Published on 22 July 2012 by mog
4.0 out of 5 stars Great fun. In a sour way ...
A fantastically sour and grumpy account of Theroux's canoe explorations of Polynesia. Often very funny, but dark, dark, dark. Read more
Published on 3 Jun. 2012 by A. J. McGowan
4.0 out of 5 stars A most critical description of paradise
I realise that Theroux wrote this whilst going through bad times splitting from his first wife, and he masterfully makes that more evident as the book progresses through a... Read more
Published on 17 Nov. 2010 by DF
3.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps his least enjoyable work
Most people, when they think of Polynesia, think of warm weather, pleasant beaches and overall bliss. Read more
Published on 18 Mar. 2010 by M. A. Krul
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