“I did not find Vowell's writing style to suit my reading tastes. ”Porcelina J wrote this review Wednesday, August 31, 2011. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“The chronology was really difficult for me to follow, so I sometimes got lost. But it was really fascinating, and every once in a while the authors wit would come through with her little asides, which I enjoyed. Good read overall, just hard to follow.”Kristin F wrote this review Monday, August 29, 2011. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Sarah Vowell has an amazing talent for making historical events inviting and thought-provoking. The events leading up to the US annexation of Hawaii are pretty scary. ”Tdeckebach wrote this review Saturday, August 27, 2011. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Interesting, but not riveting. A good account of the establishment of Hawaii as a territory and then a state. History buffs would probably rate this higher.”Conni Z wrote this review Saturday, August 27, 2011. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Another fun and informative book from Sarah Vowell. Although I did not like this quite as much as some of her other books, it was still enjoyable. She has a unique authorial voice, and her quick stories about her family (especially nephew Owen) are highly entertaining.”Matthew D wrote this review Wednesday, August 24, 2011. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I've already suffered through this tragedy in a lot of other books, but I enjoy Sarah's history lessons immensely and appreciate that perhaps her popularity will raise awareness of this injustice.
Sarah's presentation is balanced and fair, offering sufficient detail to appreciate what went down. Her real asset is making it so fun and accessible, allowing us to absorb these important lessons and laughing at how hopelessly human we all are. However, the key take-away is that we grow during this amusement and don't repeat these transgressions.”
“I loved Vowell's Assassination Vacation. It's one of my favorite books. Like the more recent Wordy Shipmates, this was an interesting book and light read, but failed to make a huge impression on me like Assassination Vacation.”Dan G wrote this review Friday, August 19, 2011. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“For those accustomed to Sarah Vowell's usual approach to history -- one offering contemporary political allusions and biting wit -- Unfamiliar Fishes will seem decidedly straightforward. Her introduction describing 1898 as a perhaps more pivotal year for the United States than 1776 prompted me to think Unfamiliar Fishes would be a platform to criticize current foreign policy, but it truly is a straight history of the American annexation of Hawaii, one which serves as an introduction to Hawaiian history to boot.
Although her narrative begins in 1820, with the arrival of American missionaries keen on saving heathens, Vowell weaves in plenty of background information, starting from the union of the islands under a warlord. From there, Hawaii transforms into a beaten state in barely a half-century, its government taken over by puritans and ruthless industrialists. This is not a straightforward tale of good and evil, however: savage warlords who oppress women deserve the misery that Puritanism brought, and staggeringly many Hawaiians were culpable in their own slow annexation -- like naive marks attracted to the idea of profit, playing poker with far more devious and ambitious men. Hawaii's history is a half-century of being hustled.
Vowell ends with the annexation of Hawaii at the hands of McKinley and Roosevelt, and revisits her idea of the ideals of 1776 being less important to American history than the greed of 1898. Her ending chapter, quoting Henry Cabot Lodge's defense of the takeover, is positively chilling, as Lodge dismisses entirely the notion that the United States is a country built on the consent of the governed and defends that with examples from history -- exulting in how the rich and powerful have subdued the less fortunate multitudes time and again. Class warfare is not a bogeyman dreamed up by Karl Marx. The book ends on a sad note, despite Vowell's usual attempts at humor.
Recommended for those curious about the aloha state.”
“Insightful look into how the US claimed Hawaii as the 50th state and the history behind it full of missionaries, sugar barons, and an uneven monarchy.”Kelly R wrote this review Thursday, August 11, 2011. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No