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Publisher's Summary

Winner of the 2020 Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award for nonfiction and the 2019 NSW Premier's History Awards for general history

For more than a millennium, Polynesians have occupied the remotest islands in the Pacific Ocean, a vast triangle stretching from Hawaii to New Zealand to Easter Island. Until the arrival of European explorers they were the only people to have ever lived there. Both the most closely related and the most widely dispersed people in the world before the era of mass migration, Polynesians can trace their roots to a group of epic voyagers who ventured out into the unknown in one of the greatest adventures in human history.

How did the earliest Polynesians find and colonise these far-flung islands? How did a people without writing or metal tools conquer the largest ocean in the world? This conundrum, which came to be known as the Problem of Polynesian Origins, emerged in the 18th century as one of the great geographical mysteries of mankind.

For Christina Thompson, this mystery is personal: her Maori husband and their sons descend directly from these ancient navigators. In Sea People, Thompson explores the fascinating story of these ancestors as well as the stories of the many sailors, linguists, archaeologists, folklorists, biologists and geographers who have puzzled over this history for 300 years. A masterful mix of history, geography, anthropology and the science of navigation, Sea People is a vivid tour of one of the most captivating regions in the world.

©2019 Christina Thompson (P)2019 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic Reviews

"I loved this book. I found Sea People the most intelligent, empathic, engaging, wide-ranging, informative, and authoritative treatment of Polynesian mysteries that I have ever read. Christina Thompson’s gorgeous writing arises from a deep well of research and succeeds in conjuring a lost world." (Dava Sobel, author of Longitude and The Glass Universe)

 

"To those of the western hemisphere, the Pacific represents a vast unknown, almost beyond our imagining; for its Polynesian island peoples, this fluid, shifting place is home. Christina Thompson’s wonderfully researched and beautifully written narrative brings these two stories together, gloriously and excitingly. Filled with teeming grace and terrible power, her book is a vibrant and revealing new account of the watery part of our world." (Philip Hoare, author of Leviathan)

"A compelling story, beautifully told, the best exploration narrative I’ve read in years." (Richard Rhodes, author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb

What listeners say about Sea People

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Great content, poor choice in narrator

From a scholarly perspective this book is an interesting account of Europeans discovering and researching Polynesia. It’s a great overview and interesting account of the history of first contact and attempts to understand Polynesia and the origins of its people, but it is by no means a synthesis of that knowledge. It’s almost more of a European history in that way. Make of that what you will. I think this book would have been much better served by someone who is fluent in a Polynesian language narrating the book. No offence to Susan Lyons, but I don’t think her posh British affectation was a good fit for this book at all. This became especially annoying when the author’s tendency to include long run-on sentences listing several items or concepts were narrated in this way. Also, her inconsistent mispronunciations of Polynesian words really made it a struggle. I think it was s real testament to the interesting concept of the book that I made it through to the end. In conclusion I think this would be a better option for hard copy or kindle.

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Informative history.

I am of Māori descent, great story, although pronounciation of all Māori words were incorrect.

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Polynesian origins

Well done & thank you, Christina. For an extensive & wide research with supporting references on the topic of Polynesia. Anyone interested in reference to, Abraham Fornander mentioned in this book. Google Play Books has free pdf download.

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MUST READ FOR POLYNESIAN HISTORY

I loved this book.

It has been very well researched, citing eye witness accounts, excerpts from journals and stories from the Polynesians themselves.

There is a wealth of information on the islands and the history of Polynesia.

Thompson has written history in a way that keeps you hooked and not bored when reciting what happened in history.

I will definitely read it again, as it has taught me so much about my history as a Polynesian and reignited my desires to learn more about my ancestors.

Thank you Christina for writing this book!

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  • michelle cox
  • 21-02-2021

Listened to 3 times over

Great escapism. A topic rarely covered or explored. The first half was a lot more accessible than the second.

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  • SJBJ18463
  • 05-11-2020

Polinesians more fascinating than you ever thought

very interesting piece with so many twists and turns that it is amazing as a work of fiction and yet all of the players actually did what was recorded.

well presented and carefully and sensitively derived from reputable sources.

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  • Helen
  • 16-06-2020

Fascinating

I chose this book because of a TV series I saw decades ago about the Polynesians. I couldn't remember what it was called but it had captured my imagination. This book is equally as captivating. It is a sensitive and respectful account of a history that is controversial in some ways.
I don't usually choose non-fiction because I find it takes too much concentration but this was a very easy listen and I enjoyed the narration very much. I know I'll be thinking about this story for many years to come.

In the spirit of reconciliation, Audible Australia acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.