Tuesday, July 20, 2010

One Big Damn Puzzler |John Harding

This was a great book to read over a few rainy days as it's quite big and the narrative flows beautifully. Nice to read uninterrupted! It's a very well told story, of an unusual nature. It's set on a small Pacific Island where the native people have had brief contact with the outside world but have maintained a firm grasp of their indigenous ways.

Americans came by after the war, used the island as a weapons testing site and left it full of land mines.The British came later to build resorts for cruise ships but left buildings half finished and in a derelict state, and no cruise ships ever came. 
THEN one day an American lawyer arrives. Eventually he reveals he is there to seek compensation on their behalf for the loss of limbs and lives caused by the mines that the Americans left behind. 
As he discovers the island and tries to understand the indigenous culture, we observe with him. We also have William tell us about his past and his struggles growing up with OCD and as an adult making his way in life with this disorder.
In between chapters we have Managua's side of the story. He's an elder in the tribe, translating Hamlet into pidgin English and struggling with Shakespearean concepts and how they fit into the culture of his tribe. He opposes the idea of the west coming to the island and changing their way of life. He wrestles with concepts and is the voice of caution in his community. 
There is a nice interval at the end where we revisit the island one year after William's initial visit and then five years after that.  

In this story there is ample discussion of issues  current to our times but put in a context we can distance ourselves from and therefore take a more pragmatic view of topics like globalisation, cultural identity, mental disorders, gender issues....

All together this becomes an interesting and entertaining read and another great example of John Harding’s great skill as a story teller.

No comments:

Post a Comment