Hawaii Readings and Movies

June 21, 2023

Paul Kay

Our Reading series is provided as a supplement to our posts. Whenever we travel, we like to learn as much as we can about our destination. Since we’ve read books and watched movies we've learned a lot. Hopefully some of these might give you a more in-depth and entertaining view of the topic you just enjoyed



by James Michener

Probably top on my list of books is  James Michener’s book aptly named Hawaii. It is an epic and a very long read but also very enjoyable.  The original settlers are believed to have come from French Polynesia.  Both Madeline and I read the book and it is a fascinating history.

Princess Ka'iulani: Hope of a Nation, Heart of a People (Incredible Lives for Young Readers) Kindle Edition

by Sharon Linnea

This book is a Kindle edition of Princess Ka’iulani’s life and courageous fight for Hawaiian independence.  It has quite a few pictures. The author used newly translated journals and letters to tell the story of the princess. I thought the author did a really good job at researching the subject and her book tells a very detailed story that you won’t find elsewhere.

Hawaii's Story by Hawaii's Queen Kindle Edition

by Liliuokalani

This story is told from the perspective of the last Queen of Hawaii. This is Princess-Kaiulani’s mother. It was published shortly after she was deposed in 1893. It is a very personal history of the islands that she was born to rule. Liliuokalani covers from her birth in 1838 through the reigns of her ancestors through the period of her own turbulent time as Queen of the Hawaiian Islands. The United States annexed Hawaii in 1898 and many other books have been written about it. However, none of the books are told from the perspective of the reigning Queen.

Queen Liliuokalani was the last reigning monarch of the kingdom of Hawaii. She ascended the throne in January of 1891, upon the death of her brother, King David Kalakaua. After she was deposed, the Queen sought redress in the Congress and courts of the United States, but her efforts failed. The book covers the details of her fight to regain her throne and life in Hawaii during the late-nineteenth century.

The book is clearly not an endorsement of what the USA did to Hawaii during this period. However, it is very educational and gave us a deeper understanding of the Hawaiian people.



If you are not a reader, the abbreviated version of Michener’s book is in the movie Hawaii with Julie Andrews and Max von Sydow. The film starring also stars Richard Harris, Gene Hackman and Carroll O'Connor. The Academy of Motion Pictures nominated it for 7 Oscars but it didn’t win any. However, it won two Golden Globes.

Princess Kaiulani

This movie is about the last princess of Hawaii. The film begins in 1889, when civil unrest unseated Hawaii's royal family and the Hawaiian people began a struggle to maintain their independence and right of self-governance. Ka’iulani was only 13 years old when she was sent to England for safety and security.  After the death of her uncle King Kalakaua and the accession of her aunt Queen Liliu'okalani, Ka'iulani becomes the next heir to the throne. The possibility of U.S. annexation is looming and the princess must make a decision about her role and her home country. The movie was filmed in both England and Hawaii. It was the first film ever permitted to shoot inside Honolulu's Iolani Palace.

The movie only covers a short part of Hawaiian history but the princess’s role in Hawaiian history can’t be undervalued. It’s a beautiful film and there definitely is a love story within. We enjoyed the movie – hopefully you will too.

The Hawaiians

This film was a sequel to the "Hawaii" I mentioned above. Since Michener’s book was quite long, the original Hawaii couldn’t cover that much of it. So this movie was made to attempt to finish more of the originally story. An interesting anecdote about the movie is that Charlton Heston had been asked to star in "Hawaii", but had turned it down.

The movie does fill in the history of the Hawaiians where the original movie stopped up to the 1900's. It probably isn’t close to being politically correct these days because many of the characters are Chinese and are brought over to work the land. Unfortunately, history is not always pretty. The acting and scenery are very good, and the music score was from the late great Henry Mancini. I think it’s worth your time if you liked the original movie or even if you enjoyed the book.

Hopefully these movies and books will help you understand the history of Hawaii a bit better. We enjoyed the books and the movies and we hope you will too. Aloha.

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