Book Reviews

I have just spent an engrossed 24 hours reading your book. Congratulations! It is quite wonderful. I could feel the heat and humidity. The descriptions of the coastal scenery was riveting. As for the sailing! I have done enough to feel encouraged by your descriptions of anxiety just as I have felt but you are so much more experienced! The book is such an insight, for me, into one of our near neighbours.

Jan Wallace, NSW

I found the book very engaging and wanted to keep reading. Val weaves an account of the Coup with its commitment politics through her personal story and in the process paints a vivid picture of Fijian life during that period.

Carol Segal, NSW

I had no idea what you were going through. I would have been out of there in two days.

Ray Clifford, UK

I’m really enjoying it, easy to read, entertaining, a bit of fun, fear, excitement, anxiety, you’ve captured the atmosphere very well.

Pam Dacosta, NSW

I’ve finished reading your memoir Fijian Shadows. I found it totally engrossing and could relate to everything, nodding with just about every page. You could have been writing about PNG. Like you, I left with a deep affection for the people of PNG and genuine sadness at returning to my comfortable middle-class life in Australia.

Stella Coram, Melbourne

I have just finished reading your splendid book. Having been there at the same time, but in a different role, I thoroughly enjoyed your account of your experience, which was so different from mine. I am amazed at the detail of your day-by-day account of the unfolding and changing political situation, and the effect on you and your life, at the university and at home.

I enjoyed very much the accounts of your get-away sailing breaks to various parts of Fiji, some of which I had visited, but many of which I had not. And, of course, our various rucksack club trips. I especially enjoyed those and I was able to get to know a very interesting group of people, I might not otherwise have met.

I found your writing about your personal and family relationships surprisingly candid. Bravo!

That must have been difficult, but it made the book especially valuable and authentic. As did your descriptions of your health issues. The fact that you could not afford a good car clearly had a major impact, and was a serious consequence of the hopelessness of the USP contract and original settling in arrangements. Your early realisation of the complexity of the local society and the gap between what seemed like realistic expectations and reality was beautifully and convincingly written.

I could rattle on, but I really just wanted to congratulate you on a terrific book, which I think is a valuable work in documenting the coup and the ins and out of the evolving situation. And the situation at USP. And also your beautiful descriptions of Suva and the other places you visited, as well as the aquatic jewels!

Sue Boyd, Perth

What I liked about your book (a lot)

1. Fast pace, short chapters, easy to follow narrative, I read it over 3-4 days and was sorry to get to the end!

2. Very frank comments on how you felt – angry, scared, amazed, disappointed – and the overall shock of being perceived negatively as ‘a white woman’

3. Tom’s bits, good to have an idea of what young people would be doing

4. Story about Arno, what he was doing, determined, resourceful, single-minded, including details about his work minding the boats (but a long way away from you)

5. Not too much political commentary, just enough to show how utterly uncertain everything was for months and months

6. Story of the roadblocks and how irritating and meaningless they seemed to be, and all the difficulties with curfews, limits on electricity etc.

7. Fantastic bits about sailing, snorkelling, where you went, how you managed the anchor, finding a way through reefs etc. – changed the whole feeling of the book, and the whole feeling about Fiji – it wasn’t all fear about the guns, politics, not all irritation about how difficult it was to work, nor the difficulties of managing domestic life

Katy Richmond, Melbourne