‘Solomoni: Times and Tales from Solomon Islands’ is Roger Webber’s memoir that focuses on his sojourn in the Pacific country, where he worked as a doctor for over 10 years.
Having spent his childhood in exotic Zanzibar, Roger knows exactly that helping people in developing nations is his true calling in life. So after graduating from medical school, he leaves England and together with his young family travels to Solomon Islands.
The Melanesian country proves to be a truly extraordinary place. Visiting even the smallest of villages, Roger provides medical assistance to those in need. He braves taboo mountains and flooded rivers to deliver babies, treat leprosy, and care for mentally ill Islanders. At the same time, he immerses himself in everything the archipelago has to offer: unspoiled beauty, distinctive cultures with age-old customs and traditions, rich history that still lingers in the air. These days of untroubled serenity come to an end when Roger experiences his own tragedy – the sudden death of his wife, Bridget.
Hardly ever are travel memoirs considered ‘serious’ literature. They are meant to be humorous, light-hearted, and easy to enjoy. Roger Webber’s book is nothing like that. It is not amusing. It won’t make you laugh. It may, however, make you cry. Yes, it will definitely stir your emotions. And it will make you think. But most of all, it will show you the Solomon archipelago like you haven’t seen it before.
The abundance of information regarding not only Solomon Islands but also the region as a whole is truly astonishing. On over 290 pages, the author demonstrates his extensive inside knowledge of the Melanesian country and its surrounding areas. And he doesn’t limit himself to well-known facts that the majority of people, especially those interested in Pasifika, are probably already familiar with. He takes one step further and unravels the hidden secrets, letting readers explore an entirely new world. He expounds on the islands’ history, describes the settlement patterns, and delineates the cultural and linguistic links between different Pacific and Asian races. His findings and observations could not be any more fascinating. Every chapter makes you understand this particular part of the Blue Continent slightly better. You read and you learn. You read and you discover. You read and you feel the urge to dig deeper. This is exactly the effect a good piece of travel writing should have on you, don’t you agree?
Now, as I have already mentioned, the book is not only very informative but also full of emotions. Somewhere in between those revealing insights regarding the Pacific Islands, the author’s personal story can be found. It is not overly prominent and yet it tugs at your heartstrings. The chapter dedicated to the tragic air crash that took away Roger’s beloved wife Bridget and left him bringing up their miracle daughters – two of only three survivors – is quite painful to get through. Even though it is written in a rather matter-of-fact manner, you can’t help but be deeply moved.
Speaking of Mr Webber’s style, I must honestly say it is not something that deserves the highest praise. Don’t get me wrong, the memoir is decently written, but it certainly won’t leave you in awe. To put it simply, you’ll find more value in the book’s substance than its style.
All things considered, ‘Solomoni’ is a great read. It does not disappoint. Unique photographs beautifully illustrate the author’s words, showing you the real Solomon Islands.