Readers who’ve missed the sprawling, multi-generational location-novels of James Michener will be pleased to know this particular sub-genre isn’t quite dead: J. Robert Shaffer’s long novel Samoa takes a leisurely, entirely masterful tour of the 3000-year history of Samoa and its peoples. The main narrative is related by Mika Sanderson, grandson of the missionary Evan Surrey and his Samoan wife, and it covers the region’s mythological pre-history, the age of great voyages and first contacts with the West, and Samoa’s bumpy entry into the 20th century. Famous names such as Robert Louis Stevenson crop up alongside a vast cast of lesser-known actors on the stage of Samoan history, and Shaffer fills his many stories with rich sentiment, mischievous humor, and a great deal of well-incorporated historical research. The characters are realistically detailed and three-dimensional, with flawed heroes and complicated villains, and all are brought wonderfully to life through Shaffer’s great ear for dialogue. This big book is utterly absorbing – it’s very strongly recommended.