Jan 5, 2010

Book Review: A Map of Paradise by Linda Ching Sledge

A Map of Paradise: A Novel of Nineteenth Century Hawaii by Linda Ching Sledge, author of Empire of Heaven.

Publisher's description: With its green cliffs and silvery waterfalls, Hawaii offers radiant hope to Rulan and Pao An - exiles from China, immigrants with the will to succeed despite hardship and prejudice and enemies from their homeland. But his proud couple's hardest struggle will be with their own child - Mulan, called Molly.

Born in Hawaii's sacred hills, Molly grows to despise the old Chinese ways. Locked in perpetual combat with her parents,she is drawn into a dangerous love affair with a glamorous but decadent poet, a protege of the (Hawaiian) king. And even as he family's fortunes rise, Molly's mother watches in sorrow, fearing that her child will realize too late that happiness lies far closer to home.

Beautifully told, A Map of Paradise offers the colorful sweep of history with the satisfaction of characters intimately revealed.

My comments: The Chinese immigrant Pao An worked in California before joining his wife Rulan and their daughter in Hawaii, called the Blessed Isles. There they built a life for themselves and formed a community with other immigrants. The core of the novel are the love stories of young Pao An and his wife Rulan, of their daughter Molly and the half-Hawaiian poet she lived with and loved, and of the quiet boy Lin Kong, whom Molly had grown up with and many times spurned as an adult.

This historical novel describes the arrival of the Chinese as laborers for the sugar plantations in Hawaii in the mid 1800s, and of their gradual integration into the island economy as farmers, traders, and businessmen. The novel tells of the exhaustive work in forming a Chinatown community out of the two warring groups of Chinese - the Punti and Hakka clans.

The book also details the history of the Hawaiian kingdom and the dying off of important members of its royal family in the latter part of the 19th century, giving way to increasing American and British influence and control of the islands.

Rating: I gave this novel five stars for its descriptive storytelling and its detailed historical content on the Hawaiian kingdom and the settling of immigrants there in the late 1800s.

A Map of Paradise was printed in 1997 by Bantam Books. I read this book as part of a reading challenge, which requires 10 books on China or by Chinese authors, now through Sept. 1, 2010: The China Challenge. I also submitted it for the Chill Baby, Chill! review challenge and the 100 + Reading Challenge.

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serendipity_viv said...

If only I hadn't entered so many challenges already, I would have enjoyed this one. This book sounds simply beautiful and definitly one to add to my list.

Anonymous said...

I'll have to keep this one in mind for my Hawaii title!

Jenny Girl said...

This sounds lovely. And since I adore Hawaii and plan to move there one day, I must read this. Thankss for the recommendation.

Staci said...

I watched a movie that told a story similar to this....sounds really interesting.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the 100+ & the Support Your Local Library Reading Challenges. This is going to be a fun reading year.

Happy New Year!!

Kerri said...

This sounds like an interesting book, and it makes me wish I was on vacation! Thanks for stopping by today.

the booklady said...

Too many books ... too little time! Deliciously tempting review Harvee! Happy New year!

Mark David said...

Wow, five stars! And it does sound like quite a beautiful book based on how you describe it. To me it's interesting because of the Chinese characters. This sounds like a good addition for the China Challenge :)

Phyl said...

This sounds like a fascinating and compelling read. I'm not sure it's a book that I'd have picked up for myself, but you make it sound very desirable.

Were you interested in China and its cultures before this, or have you taken this challenge so that you can find out about it? It sounds like a reading challenge you're really going to enjoy.

Kristen said...

What an interesting sounding book! I'd not heard of it before so thanks for reviewing it!

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