‘Fiji’ is a novel befitting of an era in which lust was in plentiful supply

Posted: August 25, 2013 in Fiji: A Novel
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One not-so-flattering book reviewer labelled Fiji: A Novel, our historical adventure-romance, “a bodice-ripper” and took umbrage with the amount of sex that features in it.

We maintained, and still maintain, it’s impossible to accurately portray life in exotic 19th Century Fiji, or anywhere in the South Pacific for that matter, without showing these were – how can I put this delicately – lustful times.

Thankfully, most reviewers of Fiji believe we’ve captured the era beautifully.

The Kindle Book Review (UK) describes Fiji as “A perfect combination of romance and action.”

Great Historicals Book Reviews says it’s “A gripping and graphic story of historic Fiji.”

Random Writings Book Reviews, of Suva, Fiji, gave it “5 stars because that’s the maximum allowed.”

Here’s one of my favorite passages from Fiji. It captures some of the cultural differences Europeans of the day encountered when they came into contact with the local Fijians…

As the day drew to a close at Momi Bay, Nathan wandered around the village observing the Qopa preparing their evening meals. Aware he was a guest of their ratu, the villagers greeted him with smiles. Their greetings were genuine. Word had already spread that the vulagi was bringing muskets to their village.

Nathan forced himself to respond in friendly fashion to the villagers. He viewed this pre-trading time simply as a charade he had to endure.

The American flinched involuntarily as he watched two young men barbecuing a large leatherback turtle over an open fire. Writhing and hissing futilely, the turtle struggled until it finally succumbed to the heat. Nearby, family members roasted a pig in a lovo, an underground oven comprised of heated stones. Nathan noticed an old man tending the pig was using a large bone that looked suspiciously like a human femur.

                 

Nearby, teenage boys expertly split coconut shells on the sharpened end of a stake in the ground. Their mother rebuked them, slapping the oldest on his bare back when some of the milk spilled out of the shells.

Looking around, Nathan observed armed lookouts patrolling the village perimeters. Above them, rain clouds threatened, reminding him the wet season was approaching. Again, he studied the strange structure that sat atop four high poles near the meeting house and wondered what it contained that was so valuable it needed guarding around the clock. A new guard paced up and down in front of it, spear in hand.

Glancing at the nearby mission station, Nathan’s thoughts strayed to Susannah. Apart from a flickering light that shone from the mission house windows, the station was already in darkness. He wondered how Susannah and her father were passing their time and what they’d be talking about.

Iremaia suddenly appeared in the open doorway of his large bure. Seeing Nathan, he beckoned to him to join him. Nathan hurried over and followed the old ratu inside. There, he found a cooking fire crackling in the center of the gloomy, smoke-filled bure. Its flames lit up the faces of Iremaia’s clan, who included his four wives and an assortment of relatives of all ages.

           

The unwelcoming Joeli was among them. Akanisi, the ratu’s first wife and mother of Joeli, supervised two slave girls who were tending the fire. There was so much laughter and chatter nobody could hear themselves speak. Nathan was greeted with welcoming smiles from all except Joeli. It was almost as if the ratu’s son sensed the true intentions that lay behind Nathan’s ready smile. The American worried that Joeli was going to be an obstacle to his forthcoming trade.

Looking around, Nathan saw that, even here, there was evidence of past conflicts. Several shrunken heads hung from the thatched roof and traditional weapons of various descriptions lay scattered around.

Iremaia motioned to Nathan to sit next to him. Sitting down, he noted the dirt floor was covered in mats woven from pandanus leaves. Marveling at their beautiful colors, he would learn later the effect was achieved by burying the leaves in mud and laboriously boiling them with other plants. Parrot feathers lined the outsides, adding to the colorful effect.

Generous helpings of steaming hot yams, sweet potatoes, and shellfish were carried in by slaves from the lovo outside. Diced raw fish was added and coconut cream was poured over the food, adding to its tantalizing appearance and aroma.

Selaima, a fetching slave girl who looked about sixteen but was in fact twenty, served the food in wooden bowls carved from the timber of some of the numerous varieties of trees that flourished in the region. She served Iremaia first, then Nathan, smiling openly at him as she did so.

After dinner, the men drank kava while Selaima and several other girls entertained them by performing a meke, or traditional dance. Wearing only grass skirts, their nubile bodies gleamed in the firelight as they danced to the beat of a hollowed-out log that served as a drum. The accompaniment was provided by two men who, using the palms of their hands, expertly pounded out an ancient rhythm.

Nathan watched, entranced, as the smiling dancers performed. Glancing at his companions, he saw they, too, were entranced. To a man, they appeared to have eyes only for Selaima. Studying the slave girl, he could understand why: she was very easy on the eye—especially while performing an erotic dance as she was now.

The American was beginning to feel the effects of the kava he’d been drinking. He’d forced himself to partake of the vile liquid in order not to offend Iremaia. Already his lips were numb and his brain felt like it was going the same way.

The rain that threatened earlier arrived with a vengeance as it only can in the tropics. It beat a steady tattoo on the bure’s roof, threatening to drown out the sound of drumming. The drummers responded by intensifying their efforts and the dancing became frenetic as the dancers tried to keep pace.

Watching the semi-naked girls dancing, Nathan’s thoughts strayed to Susannah and he wondered what her naked form looked like.

 

*    *    *

Fiji: A Novel is available via Amazon as a trade paperback and Kindle ebook at: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0057YCZM0/

 

Happy reading! –Lance

 

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