Monthly Archives: September 2014

‘BY REEF AND PALM’ BY LOUIS BECKE

‘By Reef and Palm’ is a compilation of yarns written by Louis Becke. It is the author’s first collection of stories inspired by his South Pacific travels.

BY REEF AND PALM

Summary

Since the arrival of the first Europeans, life in the South Seas hasn’t been quite the same. The lure of a tropical paradise, so hard to resist, brings more and more traders to the remote islands of the Blue Continent. And it seems that money is not the only reason for that. What really attracts the Westerners are the most beautiful native women. But in the world of different cultures love isn’t always sweet – it’s complicated, often tragic; it evokes joy, only to cover it with sorrow.

Review

Not many have ever heard of Louis Becke, so let me introduce the man first. He was a little-known Australian writer and novelist, thoroughly captivated by the Blue Continent. His works, although extremely interesting, have never won high praises from critics. But the truth is, very few authors have had a chance to get to know the islands of the South Seas as well as Becke did. He might not have been the greatest storyteller of all time, nevertheless he had the ability to attract readers.

‘By Reef and Palm’ consists of 14 narratives, and as one may expect, they vary considerably in quality. Some of them grab your attention right from the beginning, others simply fail to impress. But such was Louis Becke. He cared less about literary style, more about conveying a certain message. His only desire was to shed some light on the turbulent, lawless period in the Pacific history. As a man of the sea and a keen traveller, he had seen the unheavenly side of the wonderland: brutality, violence, abandonment, deception. Paradise may be lined with beauty, but evil lurks around the corner. This seems to be the moral of each and every tale. So sad, yet so true.

The most striking feature of this title is its authenticity. The author tells the stories in a very candid manner. He doesn’t beat around the bush – he gets straight to the point. There’s no room for poetry here; nothing is sacred, everything is exposed. That is why this compilation doesn’t make an easy read. By no means is this a charming little book about adventures in the South Seas. It’s intense, terrifying, at times quite gruesome. The horrific subject matter sets a gloomy tone that lingers in the mind long after the last page is turned.

In his writings Louis Becke managed to capture the essence of the colonial Pacific Islands. Not many authors succeeded in doing so. That’s reason enough to grab this volume. I don’t think you will be disappointed if you decide to bury yourself in Becke’s words. Chances are, you will even come back for more.

A CHAT WITH… SIENI A.M.

Sieni A.M. has just released her second novel, ‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’. Here you can read what inspired her to write this book, and how it may teach every single one of us to be a better person.

SIENI A.M.

Pasifika Tales: ‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’ is your second novel. I must say it is absolutely amazing. What inspired you to write it?

Sieni A.M.: Thank you! I wanted to write about imperfect, flawed characters, the challenges they face, and the ways in which they overcome their adversities. Out of the tests and difficulties they experience emerges nobility.

PT: Are any of the characters based on people you know in real life?

S. A.M.: The character of Kiva was inspired by a girl from my home community. She is the most radiant, beautiful person you will ever meet. She was born with a leg length deficiency, has been walking with a pronounced limp all her life, and is now attending university.

For the character of Ryler, I interviewed a graduate from the Coral Reef Academy in Samoa (American school for troubled boys). I was curious to learn about his life prior to and during Samoa. I wanted to see what impact the change in environment and culture did for him. And it did a lot. Samoa changed him for the better, but the change came firstly from within him. He made the initial steps and had the support around him to carry him forward.

PT: As you’ve mentioned, Kiva – the female protagonist in the book – is a teenage girl with a physical disability. Do you think it’s important to introduce such characters?

S. A.M.: I believe so, yes. Absolutely. Kiva has aspirations and dreams just like any other young woman and she doesn’t allow her disability to come in the way of that. Of course it isn’t easy, and she gets hurt over and over, but she also arises from those experiences. There’s much to learn from exemplars like her.

PT: What can such amazing people teach us? What message did you want to convey to your readers?

S. A.M.: Self-sacrifice. Humility. Beauty. Honesty. Purpose. However, once a story is out there it no longer belongs to the writer. A reader will interpret and connect to it in vastly different ways.

PT: The novel also emphasizes the importance of family and home. Samoa seems to be a kind of shelter for all the characters in the book…

S. A.M.: Yes, Samoa is the main setting for ‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’. It’s what I’m most intimately connected with – the culture, the landscape, the people. I also love to travel so the novel is also set in three other countries.

PT: Ok, what’s next for you? Can we expect another wonderful story?

S. A.M.: Something new is definitely brewing… So far there’s a woman florist, a beach cottage, a graveyard, and of course a guy. The first time she meets him, she saves his life then punches him in the face. It’ll be released in 2015.

‘SCAR OF THE BAMBOO LEAF’ BY SIENI A.M.

‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’ is Sieni A.M.’s second novel. It tells the story of two teenagers searching for love, acceptance, and purpose in life. The book is categorized Young Adult Fiction and set in contemporary Samoa.

SCAR OF THE BAMBOO LEAF

Summary

Life hasn’t been easy for 15-year-old Kiva. Diagnosed as an infant with a leg length discrepancy and thus walking with a pronounced limp, she’s been forced to deal with insults and nasty remarks from other people. Finding serenity in arts, she often escapes to her private comfort zone with only a sketchbook, pencil, and an idea for her next drawing.

The girl’s life changes when her beloved uncle asks her to teach the misguided boys from a nearby Academy the art of siapo and dye making. One of the students is Ryler, a 17-year-old American full of rage and anger. His negative attitude draws Kiva’s attention. As she desperately wants to help Ry overcome his inner demons, an unlikely friendship is formed. A young girl starts to believe that her own secret wishes might someday come true. But tragic times are just around the corner and Kiva’s future may not be so bright…

Review

This is one of the best books you will ever read. The truth is, I could finish my review with that one sentence, because no words can truly describe how amazing Sieni’s novel is. And it doesn’t matter if you’re 15, 28, 35 or 50 years old – this story will linger with you for much longer than just one day, one week, or even one month.

Sieni A.M. managed to create a set of extremely believable, authentic characters who are the absolute highlight of the book. Kiva is not an ‘ideal girl’ – her visible disability makes her an object of jokes. Yet, she tries to see the good in people. She dares to dream and hope for a better tomorrow. And, let me tell you, by no means is she a cripple. She is the strongest, the most incredible, the most beautiful young woman, who doesn’t allow her imperfections to clip her wings.

Then there is Ryler, a half-American half-Arab troubled kid with scars of his own. Unlike Kiva, he doesn’t believe, he doesn’t care. His turbulent past – so difficult to tame – casts a long shadow on his everyday existence. However, deep inside there is a ray of light; hidden love that simply needs to be awoken. When that finally happens, Ry’s heart is set on fire.

Although Kiva and Ryler are the protagonists in the novel, there is a group of supporting characters, each of whom is equally interesting and complex. They are exactly the kind of ‘people’ you want to have in a book, as they are the ones that carry the story.

Which brings us to the next point: the fantastically plotted narrative. It is full of surprises and twists and turns no one can see coming. You are not able to predict the next chapter, let alone the ending. This heart-warming tale is an ideally paced roller-coaster ride. It makes you laugh. And then it makes you cry. This is precisely how emotionally charged the novel is.

I could not recommend ‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’ more. This wrapped in the lush Samoan settings tale of love, acceptance, and forbearance is something you will want to come back to the minute you finish the last page. It is an exceptionally good book, extremely inspirational and thought-provoking. Poetically written with a subtle dose of humour, it should be read by every single person, young and old.