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Shoal of Time

May 3, 2009


I’ve finally finished reading Gavan Daws’ nuanced history of Hawaii, by all accounts the best, most comprehensive volume ever written. The first three quarters of the book are really engrossing. Daws has a real knack for making the characters of Hawaii’s past come alive, teasing out very believable psychological profiles and tangible motives from the primary sources. He is also adept at weaving the large themes with well-told “talk-story” anecdote in a way that gives them ring of near-irrefutable truth. I thought the narrative began to drag through the WW2 account and subsequent battle for statehood. Perhaps, having much more source material to work with, and less perspective (Shoal was published in 1968), it was more difficult for Daws to massage these storylines into a seamless narrative. I’ve read that native Hawaiians don’t rate Shoal because it ignores the indigenous perspective. I actually thought it gave fair air time to native personages, events and perspectives, and would be willing to bet that a comparable “native” history would be far less inclusive of “haole” events. But I am withholding final judgment until I’ve read that book.

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