‘Princess Hina and the Eel’ by King Kenutu
Who doesn’t know this old folktale? The enduringly popular story can be regarded as a Polynesian equivalent of ‘Romeo & Juliet’. Or rather… ‘Romeo & Juliet’ should be treated as an English equivalent of ‘Princess Hina and the Eel’.
In the South Pacific kingdom, two people fall deeply in love with each other. One of them is the beloved daughter of the king; the other – a simple commoner. Although their hearts are meant to be together, cruel fate starts to play its part.
This is such a beautiful, moving, and thought-provoking tale! Fantastic for children, teenagers, and adults alike – because we are never too young or too old to learn what’s the greatest value in life.
‘Island of Shattered Dreams’ by Chantal T. Spitz
‘Island of Shattered Dreams’, penned by an indigenous Tahitian writer, created a little scandal in French Polynesia. Now, isn’t it the best recommendation?
This is the life (and love) story of Tematua and Emere who, together with their children, enjoy a relatively untroubled existence on a beautiful island in the Blue Continent. Relatively, because even in paradise not everything is picture perfect.
Chantal T. Spitz wrote a very eye-opening book that deals with controversial and sensitive issues regarding colonialism and France’s nuclear testing in the Pacific among other things. Although it’s definitely not a light-hearted piece, it reads very well (provided that you get used to the author’s highly poetic language and tone).
‘Tales of the South Pacific’ by James A. Michener
When you think of the South Seas genre, you must think of James A. Michener. His ‘Tales of the South Pacific’ – a Pulitzer Prize-winning classic – is a masterpiece every Pasifika lover should read.
In this compilation of loosely connected vignettes the author takes readers to the war-torn Pacific region, where he shares the life stories of various people. Despite all the dramatic occurrences, they search for love and try to find joy in the smallest things.
It’s always risky when a writer combines such different themes as war, death, love, and romance. It’s even riskier when he adds to that a little bit of paradise. Such book may turn out to be either a disaster or a true gem. Michener’s title is a gem; something you will most probably want to come back to again and again.
‘Where We Once Belonged’ by Sia Figiel
Sia Figiel is one of the most interesting Pacific authors, whose books you just want to read from cover to cover.
‘Where We Once Belonged’ concentrates on Alofa Filiga, a 13-year-old girl living in Samoa. As any other teenager, she has her joys and sorrows, problems she tries to deal with, and great expectations towards her future. Navigating through the restrictions of her culture, she makes the most of each day.
It’s a powerful coming-of-age novel. It reads extremely well, even though it is full of Samoan words and phrases some people will have trouble understanding. The storyline may surprise you a few times, so be prepared to have some of your emotions stirred up pretty well.
‘Secret Shopper’ by Tanya Taimanglo
A romance novel always makes a nice gift, especially during Christmastime. And ‘Secret Shopper’ is definitely the best pick in this category!
The book revolves around Phoenix, a young woman who is suddenly left alone after finding out about her husband’s infidelity. Forced to find a job, she steps into the world of secret shopping. While on assignment, she meets Thomas.
This is not one of those cheesy, easy to predict love stories. Oh no! Tanya Taimanglo managed to create a heart-warming tale with quite a few surprising twists and turns. It’s a book that inspires and makes you believe that you and ONLY you are responsible for your own life. Highly, highly recommended!
Materena Mahi Trilogy by Célestine Hitiura Vaite
Célestine Hitiura Vaite’s series is a perfect way to transport yourself to Tahiti – one of the most extraordinary places on the planet Earth.
Materena Mahi lives together with her man (not yet husband), Pito, and their three children. It may seem that she leads an ordinary life, but the truth is, in the town of Faa’a not a day, an hour, a minute goes by without some flurry of excitement.
A trilogy written for women. This is how you could sum this series up. It’s about love, hope, and courage to chase your dreams. It’s about commitment and discovering what’s truly important in life. It’s a beautiful and immensely engaging piece of literature that will make you both laugh and cry!
‘Sandalwood Blood’ by Sam Lala
Sam Lala’s book, although a work of fiction, familiarizes readers with the sandalwood trade in the Pacific region.
The story takes place in the 19th century. Captain Lovat Mellon travels to Fiji with hopes of collecting sandalwood for the Chinese market. Accompanied by other passengers of the ship, he sails the high seas, making occasional stops at various ports. One of them are the islands of Tonga.
This is such a good book! Captivating right from the very first page, it is perfect for both men and women. It’s a beautifully written love story, a gripping adventure tale, and an extremely informative history lesson that really gets you hooked.
‘Leaves of the Banyan Tree’ by Albert Wendt
Albert Wendt is a legend among Pacific writers. His books are either very good or excellent. ‘Leaves of the Banyan Tree’ belongs to the latter category.
This beautifully written family saga tells the story of Tauilopepe Mauga and his aiga. Living in mid-century Western Samoa, they struggle to combine traditional values of their ancestors and the papalagi way of being.
This novel is definitely one of Albert Wendt’s best works. It’s engaging. It’s rich in both style and substance. It’s emotionally and mentally challenging. But most importantly, it presents a theme that is as true now as it was then.
The Scarlet Series by Lani Wendt Young
Lani Wendt Young’s books need no recommendation. After releasing the famous Telesa trilogy a few years ago, the author have recently come back with yet another fantastic series.
The story revolves around Scarlet, a young woman who is forced to return to Samoa after a prolonged absence. And although the occasion is supposed to be joyful – after all it’s her little sister’s wedding – Scarlet is less-than-excited to meet with her family.
This is a truly captivating series with lots of white lies and some very dark secrets. Lani Wendt Young created a fascinating tale, which – despite being extremely funny and light-hearted on the surface – raises an important and quite heavy issues that bring out strong emotions.
As for now, you can enjoy the first two books of the trilogy. The third one is yet to be published.
‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’ by Sieni A.M.
I have probably recommended this title a million times. Yes, I know – you may be tired of my words by now. But I’ll be honest – this is a book I’m going to recommend over and over again, because it is absolutely worth it!
This is a story of incredible friendship and profound love between Kiva – a Samoan girl with a pronounced limp – and Ryler – a misunderstood American boy of Arab descent. While they help each other overcome their insecurities, a special bond starts to form under the Pacific sky.
‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’ is a book everyone – and I mean everyone, regardless of age or gender – should read. Not only is it beautiful and heart-warming but also extremely thought-provoking.