Ten Books: Pacific Fiction

From magic- to gritty realism, poetry to epic prose, the minutiae of family life to the historical impact of political machinations, here are ten books written by Pacific writers, or with a Pacific setting and flavour.

  1. The adventures of Vela, Albert Wendt (2009, Samoan) – a novel in verse form “where everyday matters intermingle with the chronicles of the immortal song-maker and other divine figures.” (Paula Green in the New Zealand Listener)
  2. The marriage proposal, Célestine Hitiura Vaite (2007, Samoan) – also published as Breadfruit – Materena would quite like to be married but Pito isn’t so keen, then one night he drunkenly proposes and Materena finds herself in the throes of wedding preparations while keeping Pito on track.
  3. Island of shattered dreams, Chantal Spitz, translated by Jean Anderson (2007, Tahitian) – the first novel published by an indigenous Tahitian writer. The story of a Tahitian family in the foreground, with the troubled political history of Tahiti and French nuclear testing as backdrop.
  4. Where we once belonged, by Sia Figiel (1996, Samoan) – a coming of age novel featuring Alofa, growing up in an environment where Western and Samoan traditions and values clash.
  5. Carpentaria, Alexis Wright (2006, Carpentaria – Australian) – described sometimes with reference to James Joyce’s Ulysses, Carpentaria is an epic, magic-realist tale set in the town of Desperance in the very north of Queensland.
  6. The smell of the moon, Lemanatele M. Kneubuhl (2006, American Samoa) – a man seeking a complete change in his life packs up his family and moves to a South Pacific Island, whose inhabitants are a quirky and varied bunch.
  7. Dark paradise, Lono Waiwaiole (2009, Hawaii) – a different sort of Hawaii from one you might expect, this one involving the methamphetamine trade and warring wannabe druglords.
  8. Mister Pip, Lloyd Jones (2006, Bougainville) – the multi award winning coming of age story of Matilda, who is inspired by her teacher’s reading of Great Expectations during a time of violence and turmoil in Bougainville in the early 1990s.
  9. Easter Island: a novel, Jennifer Vanderbes (2003) – the story of two women who travel to Easter Island sixty years apart, one with her scientist husband in 1913 and the other as a scientist herself in 1973, both women becoming engaged with the island and its mysterious past.
  10. Galapagos, Kurt Vonnegut (1985) – a group of people take a tour to the Galapagos Islands while the world is in chaos and ruins around them.