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Posted January 6, 2011
During a week's vacation on Kaua'i, I bought and read a copy of Mark Twain's Letters from Hawaii, written during his visit there in 1866 as a newspaper correspondent. Not as polished as his later works (he was just 31), the Letters are nonetheless entertaining and typically Twainian. (Serious fans of Mark Twain will enjoy comparing this book to the Hawaiian section of his later memoir, Roughing It.)
The Letters are also filled with bits of Hawaiian history and geography that should appeal to visitors and Hawaiians alike. They are prefaced by a mercifully brief and very readable introduction.
Twain fell head over heels in love with Hawaii. He was writing in part to the business community in San Francisco, encouraging them to emigrate or establish trade. Readers who choose to skim over a few detailed descriptions of Hawaiian commerce and cost-of-living in 1866 will still be amply rewarded with a lively and often humorous travelogue by one of the world's great observers.