Tag Archives: Louis Becke

‘THE EBBING OF THE TIDE’ BY LOUIS BECKE

‘The Ebbing of the Tide’ is Louis Becke’s second collection of fictionalized short stories inspired by his adventures in the Pacific Islands.

THE EBBING OF THE TIDE

Summary

As the Blue Continent becomes more settled by the visitors from the Western World, indigenous Islanders get showered with not-so-wanted gifts of civilization: cruelty, greed, jealousy, resentment, malice. The once-peaceful paradise starts to uncover its dark, rough side; life mixes with death, love with blood, laughter with tears. And yet, despite the hidden dangers, the natives and the incomers are inexplicably drawn to each other. Much like two magnets with a force as strong and irresistible as gravity.

Review

This book is very similar to Becke’s first collection of the South Seas yarns, ‘By Reef and Palm’. It’s equally good and engaging; it’s equally tragic; it’s equally honest. And, just like its predecessor, it’s hard to read at times.

None of the 21 stories could be described as light-hearted. This extremely realistic portrayal of the islands many consider a tropical paradise is a chilling, often shocking account written by a man who ‘saw it all’. Louis Becke was not only a novelist; he was a traveller, sailor, trader, and some people say, even a pirate. His ‘friendship’ with the infamous buccaneer, William ‘Bully’ Hayes, resulted in many adventures, during which Becke witnessed the dramatic and far-reaching effects of ‘civilization’. The clash of cultures, the clash of traditional values and ‘Western’ moral codes, took a heavy toll on the Pacific’s native inhabitants. Their serene, harmonious world suddenly faded into oblivion, and dark clouds appeared on the horizon. Very few people had a chance to see the tragedy and devastation. Louis Becke was one of them. And his tales, although considered fiction, are a valuable record of the Pacific Islands’ history.

Of course, as is always the case with compilations, some of the narratives are better than the others. Nevertheless, all of them are worth reading. The author’s literary rawness – quite exceptional, to be honest – fantastically reflects the reality of the South Seas’ colonial past. Becke might not have been on a par with Robert Louis Stevenson, James Michener, or Jack London, but he was a master storyteller, and his works – ‘The Ebbing of the Tide’ among them – definitely prove it.

If you want to travel back in time, this book can serve as your time machine. It will transport you to the Blue Continent the minute you start reading the first page, taking you to all the places you’ve probably always dreamt about. From the Marshall Islands to French Polynesia, from tiny Pitcairn to New Caledonia… Take this opportunity and cruise the Pacific Ocean. Let Louis Becke be your captain. He is phenomenal. You couldn’t ask for a better person to do the job.

‘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.