Review: Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia

Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia
by Christina Thompson

Fantastic book. It's a history of the "puzzle of Polynesia" - how did the islands of the Pacific, so far from each other and so remote from any continent, come to be populated by a common people, making Polynesians "both the most closely related and the most widely dispersed people in the world"?

Christina Thompson doesn't attempt to provide a definitive answer to that question, because a definitive answer is likely impossible to find. Rather, she takes us through the history of the question itself, and how answers to it have grown and evolved since Europeans first came to Polynesia.

It's a story that's part history, part anthropology, part archeology, part genetic research, and part cultural renaissance, and she makes all of it interesting. There are a number of personalities highlighted in this book. I was especially taken with the story of Nainoa Thompson, the young Hawaiian who was instrumental in returning Polynesian voyaging as a skillset and a way of living to Hawaii and Polynesia at large.

The book is capped off with Thompson's well thought out and beautifully written Coda, where she talks about the "two ways of knowing", one arising from the Polynesian culture, one from the European.

I rate Christina Thompson's Sea People 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ - it is a fantastic book. If you have any interest in the history of Polynesia, or of European exploration, or of cultural "contact", do yourself a favor and pick this up.

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Title: Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia
Author: Christina Thompson
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publish Date: March 12, 2019
ISBN-13: 9780062060877
List Price: $29.99 (Hardcover as of 12/2021)

Revised 12/2021