About Me

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Victoria, Australia
I am an author of Young Adult Fiction books. I worked as a teacher in the Pacific Islands for seven years. Whilst in the Solomon Islands I taught PSSC English before the ethnic tension in 2000 forced a change of plans. I love Pacific literature, art and music. You can find me on Facebook at Beth Montgomery Author.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Shark God by Charles Montgomery

The Shark God (Fourth Estate, 2006)
 The Shark God is my favourite non-fiction island book. It was first published as The Last Heathen in Canada in 2004 and won the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-fiction in 2005. It's written like a travel book and follows the trip of journalist Charles Montgomery as he tries to follow the footsteps of his great-gradfather who was a missionary in the South Pacific. The story of Bishop Patteson's martyrdom on Nukapu in 1871 is the cornerstone of Montgomery's childhood fantasies of Melanesia. As an adult Montgomery decides to travel through Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands documenting the people's connection with the spiritual.
   It is an engrossing book with so many funny encounters and a few scary ones too. His trip to Kwaio is spooky to say the least.

Students dancing as evil spirits. Source: B. Montgomery
    The book is great in a theological sense because it talks about the Christian history of Melanesia and also looks at how Christianity has developed there today. But it also delves deep into the spirit world and ancestor worship which is so central to understanding Melanesian roots.
   In many ways this book is like an old friend. I could sympathise with Montgomery's frustration at trying to get a boat to Temotu and I loved his memorable encounters with the Tasiu (Melanesian Brothers) and the spattering of Pijin throughout the text.
Novice Francis and Jezeloni. Source: B. Montgomery
   The chapter called 'The Brothers and Their Miracles' made me cry. It documented some of Brother Francis' peace work during the ethnic tension. I knew Brother Francis when he was a seventeen-year-old novice at Fox Household in Makira. He was such a gentle, sweet young man. (He is pictured here with my daughter Jezeloni) Years on and now he is a martyr. Such a sad loss.
   Even if you're not into church history, if you love the Pacific you'll get a lot of enjoyment out of this book.

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