My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was so great! A fun, humorous, and still mildly educational look at the culture & residents of Fiji & Vanuatu. Compared to the only other book I’ve read about that region (The Happy Isles of Oceania), this was a definitely treat.
In fact, there was even a passage in the book that referenced “The Happy Isles” and summed up that book completely.
“When Paul Theroux, the world’s greatest living Travel Writer, visited Port Vila some years ago to gather material for a book about the South Pacific, he stopped by the local library…and discovered, to his evident pleasure, that the stacks were flush with his books. I know this because shortly after we arrived in Port Vila, I too could be found inside the library, idly perusing the scattering of books written by Theroux, one of which was “The Happy Isles of Oceania.” I opened it up, turned to his chapter on Vanuatu, and read his account of visiting the library in Port Vila, which left me feeling very happy indeed, for here I was now, doing exactly what Paul Theroux was doing: standing in a library looking at the books written by Paul Theroux. This pleased me immensely. Theroux didn’t have much else to say about Port Vila, and he soon moved on to to Tanna Island, where he engage in an epic battle with fire-and-brimstone Christian missionaries. I couldn’t blame him. For itinerant travel writers, Port Vila is the worst kind of place. It is captivatingly pleasant.”
Those last two sentences made my laugh out loud – that is the exact reason Theroux wouldn’t stay.
Overall, this was a great book; exactly what I was hoping for. I loved the author’s obsession with kava and his terror of flying (I, too, might consider taking a rusty ferry on a 14-hour journey rather than a rusty prop plane for just one or two hours). The descriptions of the life, the author’s excitement with his new discoveries, and his dealings with his neighbors were well written and made him a very likable person.
I would absolutely recommend this to anyone who really wanted a glimpse of something Happy in the islands of the South Pacific (i.e. all my fellow book clubbers!).