Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tales of the South Pacific (Pulitzer Winning Fiction Book)


I might argue that Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener is primarily a book about what happens while Navy men and women wait and prepare for action in the South Pacific Islands during the Second World War. The book is a hybrid, short stories that together tell an overarching story. The book won the 1947 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, which that year had been changed from the former category of Pulitzer Prize for the Novel. In 1949, Tales of the South Pacific was made into a successful musical.

Two short stories especially tugged at my heart. In the first, “Mutiny,” Norfolk is planned to have a strategic airstrip built on it. When an officer goes to the island to find out what the delay is all about, the inhabitants teach him about the emotional history of the island. In the second touching story, “The Cave,” a brave Brit goes behind Japanese lines and gives radio broadcasts, which help with the Ally war efforts. To some of the Americans waiting on the islands, he is a type of folk hero. To others, he is an obsession. When the broadcasts abruptly stop, some of the listening Americans set out to find out what happened to him.

Oh, I am oh so tired of reading all the war stories among the Pulitzer winners. I enjoyed many of the short stories in Tales of the South Pacific, but others were a chore to read. I was glad that some of the short stories take on issues of prejudice and racism. I also was grateful that much of the book looks at human nature. Most of the stories have a certain depth to them. I am also glad that the Pulitzer award category is expanded to include a book of short stories. I finished Tales of the South Pacific curious to see the musical.

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