Category Archives: BOOK REVIEWS

‘THE MOTIVATION STATION: AN ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO BECOMING YOUR GREATEST VERSION’ BY PITA TAUFATOFUA

‘The Motivation Station’ is a motivational book penned by Pita Taufatofua, a two-time Olympian from Tonga, who rose to fame as a topless flag bearer at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

THE MOTIVATION STATION

Summary

Sometimes it is difficult to lead a motivated and fully happy life. Sometimes it is difficult to get up in the morning and do what we are supposed to do without procrastinating and wasting our precious time. Sometimes it is difficult to achieve what we have always wanted to achieve. Sometimes it is difficult to be who we are destined to be. But Pita Taufatofua is a living proof that, with enough determination, you can not only do great things but also – or maybe most importantly – become the best version of yourself.

Review

If a motivational book makes you motivated right after you’ve started reading it, then you know the author did a terrific job. ‘The Motivation Station’ does just that. The book’s very beginning will get you inspired and after a few sentences you will want to change your life for better.

Despite the fact that Pita Taufatofua is not a professional in the field of psychology / counselling, you can sense that he is speaking from experience. Indeed, he used to work as a youth worker in Australia helping troubled people find their purpose and break the cycle of misery and hopelessness. What is more, he managed to achieve the unachievable when he qualified and competed in two Olympic games – Summer and Winter – in two unrelated sports. He can proudly say: ‘Been there, done that; and now I can try to teach you something.’. The many examples he provides us with are excellent illustrations to his ‘lessons’. You believe in what he’s telling you, because you know those are not empty words.

And what exactly is Pita Taufatofua sharing with the readers? First and foremost, his ways of dealing with any difficulties any of us may – and probably will at some point – encounter in our lives. Starting with general knowledge, which is the foundation you need to understand the complexity of the issues you are about to explore, he is slowly leading you towards his 8-step motivation guide – a sort of focal point of the book. This deliberate structure makes a lot of sense – if you want to learn how to run, you must first learn how to walk. Step by step, without rushing anything. By the time you get to the end of the book, you will have learnt at least a few things you will be able to use in your own life. That’s Pita Taufatofua’s goal – to help and inspire people. Somehow I believe he will succeed.

The book is written in straightforward language, and the more complicated terms are clearly explained. Actually, at times you may feel as if you were chatting with a good buddy of yours over a glass of healthy fruit smoothie. The author’s personal stories as well as his humour and disarming honesty only add to this feeling. There is no psychological gobbledygook there, no boring chapters you want to fast forwards through; just pure essence. It is everything you need to know about motivation presented in a condensed, pleasant to read form.

‘The Motivation Station’ is one of the best – if not the best – books on self-growth I have ever had in my hands. It’s a kind of book you want to have sitting on your bookshelf; just in case you need a little pick-me-up read. Pita Taufatofua will not let you down. I give you my word on that.

‘SCARLET REDEMPTION’ BY LANI WENDT YOUNG

‘Scarlet Redemption’, penned by Lani Wendt Young, is the third instalment and the long-awaited conclusion to the Scarlet Series.

SCARLET REDEMPTION

Summary

The wedding of the year may be over, but the family reunion is not. Scarlet feels that she no longer can hide her past. If she wants to finally be herself, if she wants to move on in life, if she wants to let love in, she needs to get all the dark secrets off her chest. Only some memories are better off dead and buried. And Scarlet is painfully aware of that. She has learnt it the hard way. But every woman has her breaking point. On one beautiful Samoan day, Scarlet tells and discovers the truth.

Review

Lani Wendt Young certainly knows how to end a story with a proverbial bang. This last book in the Scarlet Trilogy is shocking, heart-wrenching, and full of hope at the same time.

How do you recognize a great writer? Obviously, a great writer has a gorgeous way with words. A great writer can create a compelling tale. A great writer can easily make you laugh and cry. But a great writer has also courage to talk about things other people only whisper about. Lani Wendt Young ticks all the boxes. Not only is she highly skilled but also brave. She isn’t afraid to broach even the most sensitive of topics. In this volume she seems to point out all the troubling issues Samoans need to deal with – whether they like it or not. Scarlet’s secret is finally fully revealed – and it will make you angry. It will make you furiously mad that such things still happen in our world. But then you will see that even though life can be cruel, you can cope with whatever it throws at you. If you have people to support you, and – most importantly – if you have inner strength to fight, you can always find your happy ending.

This is the lesson that Scarlet is teaching us – to have courage; to not be afraid; to live our lives to the fullest; to never lose hope; to laugh; to love; and to forgive. Such words of wisdom may sound cliché, but we all need them from time to time. We all need a woman like Scarlet who can show us that perfection is a state of mind, and that you don’t have to agree to everything just because it is expected from you. Just as we all need a man like Jackson to understand what true love for another person really is.

Lani Wendt Young has always had an unbelievable gift for creating wonderful characters. Scarlet and Jackson are no exceptions. They are well-crafted and plausible, and they develop in each book of the series. We get to know them better with every page we read. And I must say that it’s a real pleasure to be able to do that. As it always is when you think you know someone but then they surprise you in the most unexpected way possible.

Now, there is one minor drawback to this otherwise excellent novel – some scenes are quite reminiscent of “50 Shades of …”. I am not sure if that was intentional, but Lani Wendt Young is too much of a talented writer to have to ‘emulate’ this particular trilogy, which – with all the respect – is not the most impressive literature.

‘Scarlet Redemption’ is a very fine book. It’s a spectacular conclusion to the series – thought-provoking, revealing, and extremely engaging. But then again, it’s not really a surprise taking into account who wrote it.

‘LAND OF THE UNEXPECTED’ BY BRIAN D. SMITH

‘Land of the Unexpected’ is a memoir penned by Brian D. Smith. It recounts the author’s experiences in Papua New Guinea as an expatriate in the early 1980s.

LAND OF THE UNEXPECTED

Summary

After seeing a recruitment advertisement in The Daily Telegraph newspaper, Brian decides to apply for a post as a supervising architect with the government of Papua New Guinea. When he is offered a contract, he takes his wife, daughter, and son and begins a new South Pacific adventure.

In the land of the unexpected Brian travels from province to province helping upgrade the local healthcare facilities. During his three-year-long stay he not only learns what it means to work in the biggest Melanesian country, but also gets a chance to familiarize himself with the local culture.

Review

If I were to sum this book up in just two words, I would say it is interesting and unusual. And because of that, it won’t be to everyone’s liking.

Let me ask you something. Are you interested in the hotels of Papua New Guinea? Do you want to know what your accommodation options are? Do you need information on the views from a particular room? Or the reception hall measurements? Or the door handle colour? Yes? Then this is a perfect read for you.

Few pages in and you can already sense that the book was written by an architect. Brian D. Smith describes all the buildings he visited – hotels, houses, hospitals – in meticulous detail. Everything – from layout to size to the surroundings – is expounded on. Which, on the one hand, is great, because you can really picture all the places in your head. But on the other hand, it makes the account slightly boring and lacking in substance. After all, this is a memoir, not a travel guide. Sure, we want to know what a certain hotel looks like, but we don’t necessarily need all the particulars, do we?

On a brighter note, Brian D. Smith’s book also provides some insights on Papua New Guinea’s history and culture. Although the author doesn’t focus on the local ways of being, he mentions a few custom and practices that you will surely find intriguing. He writes quite a bit about Papuan traditional clothing, and I must say that those parts are indeed very captivating. Just as are those that treat on the country’s past or language. Yes, Brian D. Smith introduces readers to Tok Pisin – he shares different phrases and words, occasionally explaining their origin. It’s a pity – a real pity – that such gems are so sparse throughout the book.

The memoir reads very well. It’s written in simple yet elegant language, with an occasional dose of subtle humour. The descriptions are vivid, and despite being rather lengthy, you don’t feel overwhelmed by the author’s words.

‘Land of the Unexpected’ is a book you should read if you are going to travel to Papua New Guinea and are in search of a good guide. However, if you simply want to enjoy a good piece of travel literature, this title may not be for you.

‘THE FISH AND RICE CHRONICLES: MY EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES IN PALAU AND MICRONESIA’ BY PG BRYAN

‘The Fish and Rice Chronicles: My Extraordinary Adventures in Palau and Micronesia’ is a memoir penned by PG Bryan. It recounts his experiences in the western Pacific country, where he spent three years (1967-1970) as a Peace Corps volunteer.

THE FISH AND RICE CHRONICLES 

Summary

After devastating breakup with his girlfriend, Patrick decides to join the Peace Corps; to get away, forget about Gail, and perhaps do something good for others.

Working in a foreign country takes some getting used to, especially when one is thrown into a completely different culture. Patrick needs to familiarize himself not only with the place, but also with a distinct lifestyle of the local people. Fortunately, he does that very quickly and soon starts to enjoy his adventure. In between his Peace Corps duties, he spends time with newly-met friends; splashes around in the ocean in the company of sharks, crocodiles, and sea snakes; or goes on fishing expeditions with none other than Lee Marvin. 

Review

This classic travelogue-cum-memoir is a very… peculiar (for lack of a better word) read. I can tell you right off the bat that it surely won’t be to everyone’s liking. Why? Let me explain.

PG Bryan wrote a truly fascinating account of his Peace Corps years in Palau. Fascinating and extremely – with a capital E – detailed. This is not one of those fast-paced narratives that are hard to put down once you start reading. This book drags on and on and on. After a few pages you start noticing that the author is a meticulous type of a guy – he records everything and leaves out nothing. Because, why not?

So every step he took is documented and commented on. You know where and when he was fishing. Of course, you also know what equipment he used. And how he got from point A to point B. And if he caught anything or not.

But you don’t really know what Palauan culture is like. PG Bryan doesn’t write a lot about that. There are a few interesting facts and anecdotes that you will probably be delighted to read, but only a few – and that’s a real shame.

Now, this doesn’t mean that Palau is not present in the book at all. It is. In the author’s vivid descriptions. The details of scenery he shares with the reader are – without any exaggeration – quite mind-blowing. He paints with the words so skillfully you feel as if you were right there standing next to him in blazing heat, looking at the lagoon, and dreaming of the forest shade. Or in a boat wiping salt water from your eyes. Or on a tiny, uninhabited, picture-perfect island wandering aimlessly along the white sand beach. Palau comes to life on every single page and it’s beautiful, enchanting, thoroughly irresistible.

In between those wonderful descriptions are PG Bryan’s musings on his Peace Corps service. They are often too long and loaded with unnecessary parts, but nevertheless you read them with a dose of curiosity. Especially when the author writes about all the trials and tribulations he encountered along the way. From not speaking the language, to having to adjust to a foreign culture, to experiencing a massive culture shock in his native California – he recounts everything with disarming honesty, emotion, and not infrequently self-deprecating humour, which makes you want to listen to what he has to say.

‘The Fish and Rice Chronicles’ is a good book. It’s not phenomenal, but it’s definitely worth your attention. If you like Peace Corps memoirs, or if you are interested in Palau, Micronesia, Oceania, you will surely enjoy it. Just bear in mind that… Oh, never mind. Read it and judge for yourself.

‘THE STORY OF LAULII: A DAUGHTER OF SAMOA’ BY ALEXANDER A. WILLIS, LAULII WILLIS

‘The story of Laulii: A daughter of Samoa’ is the memoir of Laulii Willis, the first native born Samoan woman to become educated in and a permanent resident of the United States of America. The book was edited by William H. Barnes.

THE STORY OF LAULII 

Summary

Laulii, a young woman of noble birth, has always been a rebellious soul. Eager to learn and help others, she aspires to lead a fruitful life.

When Alexander Willis – a Canadian carpenter – arrives in Samoa, Laulii gets intrigued by this bald-headed white man, who seems to be equally bewitched by her.

As time passes by and Alexander and Laulii get to know each other better, the feeling between them grows stronger. They take vows to spend the rest of their lives together, and soon after that Laulii leaves her beloved country and travels to America with her newlywed husband. 

Review

Calling this book interesting would be an understatement. This is a marvelous piece of literature, in which the authors focus their attention on Samoa rather than on their own experiences. Laulii Willis writes: ‘I have been requested to give to the world a sketch of my life, including a description of my tropical native land, together with the domestic customs, habits, amusements and legends of the far-away country of Samoa. In doing so I have a two-fold object: One is to make other lands better acquainted with my people (…).’ Well, she definitely managed to accomplish what she had intended.

To be honest with you, I am not sure if I should say that Samoa serves as a backdrop for Laulii’s and Alexander’s stories, or if it is the other way round. I think I am leaning towards the latter.

The descriptions of the Samoan archipelago are omnipresent – they fill almost every chapter. Even the most personal narratives contain little snippets that show what the South Pacific country was like in the 19th century. Laulii Willis provides invaluable and utterly engrossing insights into the ways of being of the native Samoans. She carefully explains their culture, beliefs, traditions, practices, social mores, likes and dislikes, sparing no details whatsoever. Everything she writes about is so revealing, so thoroughly fascinating that you can’t help but read one more page, one more chapter until you reach the very end.

Even the part written by Laulii’s husband isn’t bereft of the commentary on Samoa and its inhabitants. Obviously, as a foreigner he couldn’t possess the same knowledge of the country as his wife, nevertheless his observations are just as interesting.

One can’t forget though that this volume is a memoir. Laulii’s life story is a riveting account, full of serious reflections mixed with amusing anecdotes. The journeys she undertook as well as the experiences she encountered make the book read like a novel. Laulii Willis certainly was an extraordinary woman – kind-hearted, passionate, bright, talented on many fronts. She didn’t want to ‘just be’; she wanted to make a change, to open doors for other women in her motherland.

As the memoir is written in a rather informal style, it reads very well. Actually, you may feel as if you were chatting to a best friend, who’s done things in her life you really want to hear about. In retelling her story, Laulii Willis is candid, straightforward, and very charming. Her husband is much more matter-of-fact, but his recollections take up only a small part of the book.

All in all, ‘The story of Laulii’ is something you should – must – read if you have any interest in Samoa or Pacific Islands in general. It’s a great – terrific – volume that scores high on all fronts. Buy it! You won’t regret doing so.

‘SOUTH SEA IDYLS’ BY CHARLES WARREN STODDARD

‘South Sea Idyls’ is a collection of tales written by Charles Warren Stoddard, which recounts his journeys to Hawaii and French Polynesia. The book was first published in 1873. Its English edition is called ‘Summer Cruising in the South Seas’.

SOUTH SEA IDYLS

Summary

The Blue Continent is the place where Charles Warren Stoddard feels at home. In love with the islands and most of all in their inhabitants, he often returns to Oceania to appreciate the nature and simple life people lead there.

As he spends time with the native islanders, he discovers their beguiling cultures and takes delights in whatever is being offered to him. He quickly notices that in the Pacific, life is just sweeter, easier, and more beautiful than anywhere else. 

Review 

When this book was first published, it stirred up some controversy. Even today some people may consider it… slightly off-putting, if you will. Because, contrary to what you may expect, this account is not just about travels to foreign and exotic lands.

Before we delve into Charles Warren Stoddard’s personal experiences in the South Seas, let’s focus on the region itself. It is remarkably well described. The author made sure readers could ‘see’ the places he went to. Every single page is full of word-pictures, which show the extraordinary beauty of Polynesia. No detail is spared. Everything is so vivid you feel as if you were standing right next to the writer. Smells, tastes, views, sounds, sensations are almost real. This book is like a watercolour painting – mesmerizing to such a degree you can’t take your eyes off of it.

Now, if the book is the painting, Charles Warren Stoddard is the painter. I am not sure if he had ever held a brush in his hand, but what he managed to achieve with this travelogue-cum-memoir suggests he might have. All the stories presented in this collection are limned  with painterly skill. The author’s poetic and flowery language is in full blossom here and you can’t help but marvel at his tremendous talent. However, for some readers this distinctive writing style may be a little overwhelming. The account is not very ‘action-packed’; it thrives on detailed depictions of places, people, customs, traditions, and cultures. If this is not the type of literature you find enjoyable to read, this book will not be a good fit for you.

I know what you must be thinking right now: what exactly is controversial about this work? Well, apart from being a nice travelogue, it is also a homoerotic memoir. Now, let me be clear here, sexual references do not dominate the stories. In some tales (‘The Last of the Great Navigator’, for example), they do not appear at all. Nevertheless, a perceptive reader will easily notice a great number of young, handsome, and usually naked men who show up in most of the chapters. Interesting is the fact that even in these intimate descriptions, Charles Warren Stoddard is very subtle and completely devoid of vulgarity. But again, if this is something you don’t feel comfortable reading about, this book is not for you.

‘South Sea Idyls’ is a classic of travel literature. And as such it is without a doubt worthy of anyone’s time and attention. Yes, some of the author’s words may shock a little, but the islands… The islands are as stunning, as real as in no other book.

‘UP POHNPEI: LEADING THE ULTIMATE FOOTBALL UNDERDOGS TO GLORY’ BY PAUL WATSON

‘Up Pohnpei: Leading the ultimate football underdogs to glory’ is Paul Watson’s memoir about coaching the Pohnpei football team.

UP POHNPEI 

Summary 

Paul and Matt have always dreamt about playing international football. But how can you make it into a team when you are not the next David Beckham? Well, the easiest way is to become a citizen of a country with a team bad enough you will get a chance to play. A quick search and… Pohnpei sounds like a winner.

When it soon becomes clear that naturalization may be a little problematic, Paul and Matt decide to search for an alternative option. Coaching? Why not! With little hesitation, the two friends leave cold Britain and head for tropical Micronesia.

With one of the world’s wettest climates, a disastrous football pitch, and a population whose obesity rate is 90 per cent, Pohnpei turns out to be a less than ideal place for football. But with a little bit of will and patience, everything can be achieved.

Review

‘Up Pohnpei’ is an eclectic mix of personal, sports, and travel memoir. You would think these can’t go well together, but I can assure you otherwise. Paul Watson created a very fine combination that will make you laugh, ponder, dream, and believe that you can reach for the stars if you only want to.

There is no denying that this book is about football, or soccer if you prefer. But don’t let this put you off. Yes, the references to this particular sport are probably on every single page, but the story itself is much deeper and much more multi-layered that you would expect.

First and foremost, it shows you that impossible can usually be turned into possible. Recounting his adventure, the author provides us with a high dose of motivation and hope. His own dream, so improbably unrealistic, came true. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t without problems, but he managed to achieve what he had wanted. Inspiring others to adopt this never-give-up attitude seems to be the underlying theme of the memoir. And that’s beautiful, because if we learn to follow our hearts and fulfill our goals and ambitions, then we will be genuinely happy people.

Paul Watson is very straightforward and honest in telling his story. When he describes his fruitless efforts and dozens of small failures, you admire his determination. When he shares his struggles to attract sponsors, you feel his disappointment. When he reveals his longing for his family back home, you understand his pain. You get drawn into his world the minute you start reading the first chapter, because you know it is real. His emotions are on full display, so you quickly get the impression that it’s not Paul Watson – the author of the book, but Paul Watson – my mate whom I’ve known for a very long time.

This shows how talented Paul Watson is as a writer. His wit and sense of humour – which come through on every page – make the memoir a light-hearted yet thought-provoking piece of literature, while his descriptive but not overwhelming style ensures it reads really well.

And where in all this is Pohnpei? The islands (not only Pohnpei) are as vivid as photographs. The author not only depicts the places he had a chance to visit and see, but also – or more importantly – provides insights into the local cultures. He explains various customs and traditions and delights readers with his very own observations. By no means is his account an anthropological study, but it presents quite a few interesting facts about the islands of Micronesia you might not have known.

All in all, if you are looking for an enjoyable, engaging, and uplifting  book, ‘Up Pohnpei’ will be a terrific choice. All the more so if you are a football fan. But I would recommend it most for all those people who tend to forget that everything is about belief. Remember, if you can dream it, you can do it.

‘NEW FLAGS FLYING: PACIFIC LEADERSHIP’ BY IAN JOHNSTONE, MICHAEL POWLES

‘New Flags Flying: Pacific Leadership’ is a book edited by Ian Johnstone and Michael Powles. It documents the political history of fourteen Pacific Island nations.

NEW FLAGS FLYING

Summary

After ruling the Pacific Islands for a hundred years, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and the USA decide to grant independence to most of the states.

The change from being colonial subjects to self-governance turns out to be harder than anyone could have predicted. Local politicians try their best to lead their countries into this new chapter in history. 

Review 

Politics is not an easy subject to broach. It is often mundane and not very ‘accessible’ to an ordinary person not particularly interested in affairs of state and diplomacy. But this book deals with it in the most engaging way possible. Ian Johnstone and Michael Powles created a gripping read you, quite honestly, are not able to put down.

First and foremost, I have to praise the language, which is simple, uncomplicated, and easy to understand. The authors could have used fancy (and rather mystifying) political jargon and inundated us with professional terms and expressions, but then the book wouldn’t be intelligible to all people. It would be a title addressed exclusively to experts. I am glad that Ian Johnstone and Michael Powles chose a different path and decided to aim the volume at general audience who simply would like to familiarize themselves with the political history of the region.

‘New Flags Flying’ provides considerable insights into a time when Pacific Island states were undergoing colossal changes. Recounted by leaders who were a main force in shaping the events, the book is a scrupulously honest depiction of the countries’ journeys to independence or self-government. Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, Tofilau Eti Alesana, John Webb, Sir Tom Davis, Dr Ludwig Keke, HM King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, Hon. Young Vivian, Sir Michael Somare, Hon. Solomon Mamalon, Sir Peter Kenilorea, Hon. Bikenibeu Paeniu, Sir Ieremia Tabai, Fr Walter Lini, Kessai Note, John Haglelgam, Sandra Sumang Pierantozzi, Hon. Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, and Dame Carol Kidu share their personal experiences of taking their people into a very uncertain, at least at that time, future. The stories they tell – very emotional and thought-provoking – disclose not only the hopes and ambitions they had but also the struggles they had to face. Because no other part of our globe is more vulnerable to challenges and difficulties than Oceania; just as no other part of our globe demonstrates more resilience and ability to cope than those little islands do.

The interviews are accompanied by comprehensive commentary, background information, chronological summaries of significant events, and old photographs, which make the book even more interesting to delve into.

Now, although the title will be a fascinating read for every person who loves the Pacific Islands, for the Islanders themselves it should be of extra special value, as it contains lessons they can and ought to draw from. Why not use the past to improve the present and shape the future? Pacific policymakers should have this book sitting on their desks.

‘New Flags Flying’ is a great piece of literature. I can only congratulate the editors on the job well done and tell you that their work is definitely worthy of your time and attention. I could not recommend it more!

‘MY MISSION TO FRENCH POLYNESIA’ BY S. DEAN HARMER

‘My Mission to French Polynesia’ is S. Dean Harmer’s memoir, which chronicles his two and a half year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Tahiti, where he served from 1966 to 1968.

MY MISSION FRENCH POLYNESIA

Summary

Stanley has dreamt about going on a mission trip for 18 years, so when he finally gets the call he is more than excited. Especially when he finds out he is going to serve in beautiful French Polynesia.

After initial preparations, Stanley – full of youthful zeal – boards the plane to Tahiti, ready to start his great adventure.

In the South Pacific country, he gets right to work. While preaching the gospel, he visits even the tiniest of villages and meets incredible people who, as it turns out, will impact his life forever.

Review

I chose to review this book because it is Pacific non-fiction literature. I try not to be picky and review any book that falls into this category, so readers could themselves decide whether they want to read a particular title or no. Unfortunately, and this is such case, sometimes I just have to simply say that a certain book is… Well… Not good, to put it mildly.

I really was eager to start reading S. Dean Harmer’s account. I thought it would be an engaging memoir. A young man travels to French Polynesia… Sounds like a great adventure; a journey of a lifetime. And I’m quite positive that for the author it was a great adventure. He just didn’t succeed in telling the story.

The book is extremely short, thus you get the feeling that it is a little rushed and – what’s even worse – repetitive in many places. S. Dean Harmer writes almost exclusively about his mission work, which is interesting, but only to a certain degree. If it weren’t for the names of the places he had a chance to visit, you would quickly forget that his sojourn took place in a South Pacific country. It’s a memoir extremely sparse on details regarding the islands, their inhabitants and their culture. There are no funny or poignant anecdotes, no fascinating facts, no ‘discoveries’ people usually make while travelling to a distant land. When he writes about French Polynesia, he does so superficially, so the fragments often slips by unnoticed.

The strongest point of this book are photos. There are a lot of them, and they definitely enhance the written word. The author is not big on descriptions, so the pictures come in handy. They let you see some of the places he mentions (some are stunningly beautiful!), thereby helping you imagine what S. Dean Harmer’s mission to French Polynesia was really like.

I would love to say that I recommend this memoir wholeheartedly, but the truth is, it is not a great read. Actually, it’s not even good. It is not worth your time, money, or attention. But, of course, this is only my personal – and very subjective – opinion. Yours may be different.

‘A PATTERN OF ISLANDS’ BY SIR ARTHUR GRIMBLE

‘A Pattern of Islands’ is a memoir written by Sir Arthur Grimble. It recounts his time in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, where he served as a British colonial officer for nearly 20 years.

A PATTERN OF ISLANDS 

Summary 

In 1913, a 25-year-old Arthur Grimble gets nominated to a cadetship in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Protectorate. Being the only candidate, he accepts the post and soon after that leaves cold Britain for the heat of the Pacific Islands.

The little country welcomes Arthur and his wife Olivia with its kind-hearted inhabitants and a significantly different culture, to which the young officer must quickly adapt. Having the natives as his teachers, Arthur masters the Gilbertese language, gets to know the local customs and traditions, and discovers what it’s like to live at the end of the world. With each passing day he grows fonder of the place and the good-natured people he has a privilege to meet. And he realizes that his is the honour, not theirs. 

Review

I’ve been wondering for a while now, why are memoirs written by colonial administrators so unbelievably engaging? Is that because they transport you to exotic places? Or maybe the reason lies in the fact that they take you back in time? It’s probably both, right? Well, this particular title is no exception. Let me tell you right off the bat: this is such an interesting piece of work! First of all, Kiribati is the most fascinating topic. Could anyone write a bad book about this country? I highly doubt it. And second, Sir Arthur Grimble was a very talented writer, whose innate gift for telling stories in a poetic and descriptive way simply cannot be denied. That’s exactly what I call a perfect mix; a perfect mix of substance and style.

Although the book is a classic memoir, the author doesn’t focus solely on his experiences. In fact, he treats them as a sort of background to his descriptions of Kiribati, its inhabitants and their culture. And you should know that those descriptions are second to none. From the scenery to legends, rituals, and beliefs to people’s everyday lives, you can picture it all. It is quite astonishing what a careful observer Arthur Grimble was; and surprisingly unbiased one at that! You can really sense his genuine admiration and utmost respect for the Islanders. He came to Kiribati representing the great British Empire, but he didn’t even try to impose his ways of being on the locals. He chose to learn theirs instead. How rare is that? Don’t we all love to judge and criticize other cultures just because they are not similar to ours?

Now, apart from being an excellent study of the Gilbertese culture, the book is also an engrossing portrayal of colonial administration. The author doesn’t hide his support for colonialism, which only adds plausibility to the whole story. Bygone times are vivid in all their glory on every single page. So if you have ever dreamt of a time machine, or if you have ever been curious what it was like to work for the British Colonial Office, this definitely is a book for you.

Sir Arthur Grimble had a delightful way with words, so his memoir reads like a charm. Some may say the pace is a little too slow, but the narrative is so compelling that this really isn’t a bother. Plus, the author’s wonderful sense of humour and slightly self-deprecating manner make up for any minor drawbacks you may find. Personally, I couldn’t put this book down. But as they say, one man’s meat is another man’s poison!

Would I recommend ‘A Pattern of Islands’? Wholeheartedly. For whom would I recommend it? For those interested in Kiribati, or Pasifika in general. For those intrigued by history. For those wishing to immerse themselves in a literary masterpiece. Because this is one hell of a good read. Insightful, thought-provoking, and thoroughly captivating.