May 22, 2010

Take Me Away in May- Fiji

Take Me Away Saturday

For those of you unfamiliar with Take Me Away Saturday, I started it because I love books that take place in different cultures and are about different cultures. Take Me Away is a way to share with other readers books that can transport them into another culture. Each week I feature a different country or culture (ex. Cherokee, Jewish, etc. that do not have a specific country per se) and list some books that can transport you there. (Note: ex. not necessarily books by a German or an Australian, but books set in Germany or Australia.) I try to provide a variety of fiction genres as well as nonfiction selections.

I am keeping a map of the countries we visit, which you can see at the bottom of this post. There is also a list of both countries and cultures visited in past Take Me Away posts. Check them out and discover some good books to read.

This week we are visiting the country of Fiji.
Here is an easy to see map of Fiji:

For more information on this country click here.

Click on the titles of the books below to read reviews and/or purchase the book. Note: I do not receive commissions if you purchase a book through the link I provide, whether from Amazon, Indiebound, or otherwise.

Thrown together for three days on the paradise island of Taveuni, a lonely Norwegian biologist, a bereaved English novelist, and a strange and beautiful Spanish couple so much in love they seem to have evolved a private language, fill the long Pacific nights by playing bridge, telling stories, and discussing ideas. This brief encounter is no mere interlude, but the start of an intertwined story, full of illusion and allusion, that will unfold many months later. Part tragedy, part mystery, and, above all, a love story, Maya debates and unravels the questions that give meaning to the lives of its characters—and to our own.

Getting Stoned with Savages tells the hilarious story of Troost’s time on Vanuatu—a rugged cluster of islands where the natives gorge themselves on kava and are still known to “eat the man.” Falling into one amusing misadventure after another, Troost struggles against typhoons, earthquakes, and giant centipedes and soon finds himself swept up in the laid-back, clothing-optional lifestyle of the islanders. When Sylvia gets pregnant, they decamp for slightly-more-civilized Fiji, a fallen paradise where the local chiefs can be found watching rugby in the house next door. And as they contend with new parenthood in a country rife with prostitutes and government coups, their son begins to take quite naturally to island living—in complete contrast to his dad.

It is 1918 and Spanish Flu is epidemic in Suva, the capital of Fiji. Twelve year old Olive is sent with her brothers and grandmother to Taveuni to stay with her childless aunt and uncle on their sugar plantation to escape the disease as her mother lies dying of the flu in their family home. The months that follow hold magic and sorrow for Olive, as she uncovers well kept family secrets and grieves for her dying mother. The Sailmaker's Daughter is dedicated to the memory of Stephanie Johnson's grandmother, who was born in Fiji in 1905. Like Olive in the book, her grandmother was one of a large family; her father was the sailmaker in Suva and her mother died of the Spanish Flu at the end of the Great War. The Sailmaker's Daughter is both a tribute to Stephanie Johnson's grandmother and a powerful evocation of a mystical paradise lived and lost.

The literary device of juxtaposing the story of the Fiji coup against autobiographical reminiscences of a Fiji background works very well. This is an excellent story, beautifully written and skilfully mixing the personal with the political .. The EH McCormick Award for the Best First Book of Non Fiction, sponsored by the New Zealand Society of Authors (PEN Inc) and Creative New Zealand, goes to Kava in the Blood by Peter Thomson." - Judges Report, Montana New Zealand Book Awards, 2000. Entwined through the author's reportage of the 1987 coups is an evocative picture of life in the islands. Thus, Kava in the Blood is also an intriguing story of hurricanes, haunted houses and copious kava consumption, set within the dramatic landscapes and vibrant cultures of the Fiji Islands.

How do ordinary people respond when their lives are irrevocably altered by terror and violence? Susanna Trnka was residing in an Indo-Fijian village in the year 2000 during the Fijian nationalist coup. The overthrow of the elected multiethnic party led to six months of nationalist aggression, much of which was directed toward Indo-Fijians. In State of Suffering , Trnka shows how Indo-Fijians' lives were overturned as waves of turmoil and destruction swept across Fiji.

Describing the myriad social processes through which violence is articulated and ascribed meaning-including expressions of incredulity, circulation of rumors, narratives, and exchanges of laughter and jokes-Trnka reveals the ways in which the community engages in these practices as individuals experience, and try to understand, the consequences of the coup. She then considers different kinds of pain caused by political chaos and social turbulence, including pain resulting from bodily harm, shared terror, and the distress precipitated by economic crisis and social dislocation.

Throughout this book, Trnka focuses on the collective social process through which violence is embodied, articulated, and silenced by those it targets. Her sensitive ethnography is a valuable addition to the global conversation about the impact of political violence on community life.

In evocative island settings, a cast of international characters mix an intriguing cocktail of murders, tropical passion and Fiji humour. The year is 1990 and a nuclear bomb's been spirited from Moruroa, France's military atoll, and smuggled to the Fiji Islands. Islamic extremists are trans-shipping the bomb through the islands to a mystery consignee. French special forces and the Fiji military try to track down the bomb and its shadowy high-jackers. The chase takes them through the brothels and backwaters of Papeete and Suva, to down-at-heel Taveuni copra estates, and then out to remote atolls in northern Fiji. Taveuni ornithologist, Jack Costello and Madeleine Bouvier, a coral reef conservationist, struggle with developers intent on over-expoliting the islands. Their tentative love affair is thrown into confusion by Madeleine's past activities in France. When they and their Fijian friends become embroiled in the bomb-chase, Jack and Madeleine must take matters into their own hands.

This is, of course, not an exhaustive list. There are many more books out there. Do you want to share book recommendations that feature Fiji? Or do you want to share other thoughts? Please leave a note in the comments! I love the feedback!

Be sure to check back for another trip in books! Here is what is coming up next:

June: The Central American country of Honduras
July: The Middle Eastern country of Israel

The Take Me Away Map of Countries Visited:

Where we've been and the books that take us there:
The Americas and the Caribbean
Triple Threat-Baltic States
Middle East
Sierra Leone
Australia, Pacific Islands
New Zealand
Cultures Across the World
Australian Aborigines
Sioux Nation
Inuit Culture


  1. I've never read a book set in the Fiji, and I don't think I could have thought of a single one. Thank you for this list, Rebecca!

  2. awesome list. I so want to live in Fiji, it looks so beautiful!!

  3. Fiji sounds like a magical place to me!!! Loving the lists of books to choose from!

  4. Ana- You're welcome! :)

    Deb- Doesn't it, though? I'd just love to visit!

    Staci- It is so exotic and different from here that it certainly does seems magical!

  5. I would love to go away to Fiji. If you've got the money, I've got the time. ;)

  6. You have posted a very interesting article. Keep it up!

    Good Books To Read.


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