‘A Farm in the South Pacific Sea’ recounts a true story of the author’s cousin, June von Donop, who had lived in the Kingdom of Tonga in the late 1960s and early 1970s. All the events described in the book are based on June’s personal journals and countless conversations the two women held.
In 1967, American businesswoman, June Sandusky, decides to move to Tonga in order to start a spiny lobster nursery and forget about her difficult past: three failed marriages, a rocky relationship with her mother, and the death of a loved one during the World War II.
Soon upon her arrival she discovers that the South Pacific islands are not quite the paradise she hoped for. While native Tongans seem very friendly and welcoming, they are not pleased with her being an entrepreneurial woman. But the men’s opposition makes June even more determined to succeed.
With a little help from the warm-hearted people, she finds a perfect location for her farm. She arrives on Mango Island and instantly chooses the place as her new home. She hires a carpenter to build a house for her – a traditional palm frond fale with nice kitchen cupboards, Dutch doors, and wooden-framed beds.
As time goes by, June becomes accustomed to the new surroundings. She works in her nursery, has fun with her friends, finds a lover and a man who turns out to be her true soulmate. But life is no fairytale and June learns that nothing lasts forever.
This is a truly wonderful book that takes readers on an unforgettable adventure to the South Pacific region. June’s experiences, chronicled brilliantly by Jan Walker, stir emotions to such an extent that you will literally have to pause every few chapters to calm your racing heart. This is, of course, the result of the story itself – highly engaging, but not easy to read. Some people may find it a little bit hard to get through the beginning. Long, detailed descriptions and lack of action can definitely make the narrative appear mundane. However, let me assure you, it gets better and better with every page. What is more, once you get to the end, you will most likely want to read it again.
Strong plot is supported by mature, well-developed, and more than believable characters: ambitious and independent June, caring Tavita, family-oriented Tomasi, somewhat bossy but helpful Mary, determined to make a difference Ana’alisi, and many more who are just as good. They are all different and they all have their vices and virtues. Their world, although dubbed ‘the tropical island paradise’, is not picture perfect. Love is sacred and painful at the same time; happiness mixes with sorrow; troubles lurk around every corner. This is the real life – sometimes you just have to fight; even if you are surrounded by marvelous lagoons, sandy beaches, and crystal-clear blue waters. I guess this is the reason why all these characters seem so incredibly authentic.
‘A Farm in the South Pacific Sea’ is not just a novel based on actual events. It is a story of passion, strength, courage, love, desire, and friendship. It broaches the subjects of gender roles and women’s rights in various cultures, providing valuable insights into these issues. Jan Walker addresses discrimination, domestic violence, sexual harassment with surprising bravery. Her words may be quite enraging to read – a few of the scenes are profoundly disturbing – but it can’t be denied that they are deeply thought-provoking and thus worth pondering on.
I do recommend this book. Wholeheartedly! You may shed a few tears at the end, you may laugh a few times at the beginning. Whatever your emotions, June’s adventure will surely touch your heart and soul. But, bear in mind that this is not a light-hearted romance. Neither is this a novel for young adults.