Tuesday, July 24, 2007

All Those Bright Crosses - a book set in Fiji

from w
An Australian book has just been published - Picador imprint - All Those Bright Crosses - by Ross Duncan. It's mainly set in Fiji so I might search in the book shops to buy it and later write a review. Here's some info so far.

All Those Bright CrossesDuncan, Ross
ISBN: 9780330423250 Subject: Modern & Contemporary Fiction
Stock: New, Available
Published: 01-07-2007 Binding: B-Format Paperback Pages: 348 page/s
Price: A$22.95 Imprint: Picador Australia

And a website by Pan Macmillan with a readers' guide includes the following:

Martin's arrival in Fiji heralds a new thread in the novel for we are immediately introduced to the differences but also the connections between Fiji and Australia . As he leaves the Fijian airport he says that, ‘the humidity hit me like an invisible wall. I had to remind myself constantly that this was what sapped the energy, the resolve, made easy things difficult.' (p 63) But later he remarks that seeing familiar sights such as Australian banks, reminds him ‘that I had perhaps not ventured very far from home at all.' (p 65) Martin grows to respect the ways in which Fijian culture differs to Australian. ‘That's how it is in Fiji. For a long time nothing happens. But everything gets done eventually.' (p 222) A Canadian journalist discusses the George Speight coup of 2000 (p 68) with Martin: ‘You'll get used to it,' he said. ‘Things being more or less true in this place.' (p 70) On his third day in Suva he moves to the Twilight Homestay and continues to discover the nature of this society in which ‘Cash is a much more valuable commodity than shoes in a place like Fiji.' (p 125) He sees the Statue of Cakobau chief of Bau, who ceded the Fiji Islands to Great Britain in 1874 (p 125), and a couple of Spanish silver dollars from the Eliza at the museum and observes that ‘tiny crosses of bright light glinted on their surface' (pp 125-6). Both events rekindle his interest in his research but he feels uncomfortably that it's ‘almost as if I was unwittingly acting out an intricate script that had been written by someone else' (p 126). When he visits the Grand Pacific Hotel he pays Rani a guard to see inside (p 127) and she tells him some of its history, of a female ghost living there, and insightfully observes that he's depressed, warning him that: ‘Without trust you are nothing inside'(p 130). Grainger, the hostel owner, shows up just before Martin's planned return to Australia , and offers him a part-time job so he decides to stay. He telephones Angelica, who is not impressed, and says he's ‘impossibly cruel' (p 154). But he settles in, supervising the guest house, researching, and sub-editing a local paper, including a gossip column. ‘Gossip is a favourite pastime in Suva . A fact that ought to make people act more discreetly than they do.' (p 157) Over the next few weeks he meets a twenty-five female escort named Tabua (pp 162-3), hears her story (which is typical of poorer Fijians and their lack of opportunity), and of her affair with a wealthy businessman named Chin, and during several meals together he begins to care for her. One night he meets her at a club, finds her drunk, tells her she doesn't have to prostitute herself (pp 228-230), and is later beaten up, possibly by her companions.

from w (later)
I've browsed through the novel - intriguing take on life in Suva which is so different to my own experience as I'm not a pub or nightclub attender. A blokey kind of book. There aren't any really sympathetic female characters. Nice cameos and sense of place. A few bungles - getting a boat from Levuka to visit Bau seems a stretch, and a half-hour ride to an international airport - or am I wrong about planes going from Nausori to USA, or Sydney, etc. The author could have made a lot more of his intriguing title too. I'll write more later.

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