Book review: ‘Tales of the South Pacific: The Novel’

By LARRY BALLWAHN | Wilton

"Tales of the South Pacific" was Michener’s first work of fiction and it won a Pulitzer Prize. Published in 1947, it offered a graphic picture of the then recent war against the Japanese. The narrator, a Navy officer responsible for important person-to-person communication, offers first-person descriptions of the people and experiences he encountered as the United States began the challenge of controlling the islands critical to taking Japan.

Each “tale,” essentially a short story, is based on a particular experience and usually revolves around a particular person and a particular personality type. For example, early in the book, a New Zealand officer, an ally, is described as, “It was difficult to like Grant. He was the type of New Zealander who repels rather than attracts.” None the less, he was respected because he was correct in his assessments, courageous, knew the Japanese, and had a vested interest in stopping the Japanese war machine before it invaded New Zealand.

As horrible as the battles were in the Pacific, perhaps worse was the waiting. It took weeks of planning and preparation before an invasion finally took place. All of the moving parts had to be assembled and stored at a nearby location; in the case of the Pacific, at another island. Military men had to be there well in advance, and for them, the waiting began upon arrival, with most not even aware of what they were waiting or preparing for.

Occasionally the waiting led to the “screaming meemies, the rock jollies or being island happy.” That’s not to underrate the battles themselves, as they invariably involved a beach landing against heavily fortified positions and an enemy literally trained that fighting to the last man was the only honorable thing to do. If you fail, you must fall on your sword.

One of the many heroes of the Pacific was the volunteer who lived on an island in the midst of the Japanese Army and relayed invaluable information regarding troop and fleet movement via radio. Since he was well aware that it couldn’t end well for him, what gave him that kind of courage?

“The things Anderson does, don’t add up to an ordinary man. Why does a good man like him come out here in the first place? How does he have the courage?”

The whole idea of the man remained a mystery as inevitably his transmissions stopped, and he was later found beheaded. How, indeed, does any good man have the courage to …? ‘Tales of the South Pacific’doesn’t answer that question, but it does profile several good men, and a few women.

Comments are closed.

  • Two hurt in Norwalk crash

    January 22nd, 2020
    by

    Monroe County Dispatch advised of a two-vehicle accident with injuries and entrapment on N. McGary and North streets in Norwalk at about 9:14 a.m. Tuesday.


    Book review: ‘Death in Cold Water’ by Patricia Skalka

    January 16th, 2020
    by

    When a millionaire with a long, public history of supporting the Packers disappeared after attending a Bears-Packers game in Chicago, it was national news.


    KVR to host talk on raptors this Saturday

    January 9th, 2020
    by

    A talk on raptors is slated for Saturday, Jan. 11, from 10–11 a.m. and from 2–3 p.m. at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve.


    Book review: ‘Mr. Dickens and His Carol’ by Samantha Silva

    January 7th, 2020
    by

    “Mr. Dickens and His Carol” is a work of fiction. That must be understood to appreciate this review.


    Upward Bound representatives will be available in Norwalk

    January 2nd, 2020
    by

    Representatives from UW-La Crosse’s Upward Bound program will be at Bailey’s Diner in Norwalk on Monday, Jan. 6, from 5–8 […]


  • Royall finance and facility meeting set for Jan. 7

    January 2nd, 2020
    by

    Great news: The Royall School District has only two years of debt payment left after this year.


    One dead in rural Ontario crash

    December 30th, 2019
    by

    One man is dead after a one-vehicle traffic crash on Highway 131, near Nisswa Road, in rural Ontario, according to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.


    Person injured in Clifton fall

    December 29th, 2019
    by

    During the morning of Dec. 28, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office responded to an incident of a subject who had lost consciousness after falling from a high elevation on Kirkwood Avenue in the town of Clifton.


    Two taken to hospital after Jefferson crash

    December 29th, 2019
    by

    The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office responded to a two-vehicle crash at about 3:48 p.m. today at Highway 33 and County Highway D in the town of Jefferson, between Ontario and Cashton. 


    Vernon County to issue WIC benefits

    December 28th, 2019
    by

    The Vernon County Health Department will offer WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program benefits at the following locations in January.


    Book review: ‘Nothing More Dangerous’ by Allen Askens

    December 28th, 2019
    by

    By LARRY BALLWAHN | Wilton Boady Sandron was working for one objective. As soon as he had earned enough money, he […]


  • Archives