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, June 30, 2011

The Tambu Ground by Barry Hayes

The Tambu Ground (Boolarong Press, 1997)
 The Tambu Ground is a self-published novel written by a man who lived in the the Solomon Islands for a time working as a financial and commercial advisor for the Solomon Islands Broadcatsting Corporation. The story could do with a good editor to tighten much of the language and cull some uneccesary description but as to the basis of the plot, the story is a cracker.
   Tapu, the sole survivor of a natural disaster on his island, sets out to claim the tambu or sacred ground on the far side of his homeland. The story meanders from the outer islands to Honiara and back again. Along the way Tapu finds a faithful sidekick, Jimmy and a beautiful young girl to rescue. But he also earns the wrath of an evil custom magic man, Jullio, who will not rest until he kills Tapu.
   The tension in this book keeps the reader going but there isn't a lot of depth or insight into the characters. I found it was a pacey, exciting read, but not one of those stories that linger in your head for months and years after.
   Hayes has described the Solomons well, from Honiara's uncomfortable heat and dust to the cool lush forests and bountiful lagoons of the smaller islands. I think many Solomon Islanders would enjoy reading this for all the descriptions of their homeland. When I scanned my copy for posting on this blog I forgot to peel off the price sticker. I found this book at a bargain $4 in a second-hand bookshop. Amazing what you can find when you hunt around.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Getting old

Once again I've had time off blogging for family health reasons. This time my step-father took ill, had a stroke and has been in hospital for almost two weeks. It is sad to watch someone so independant struggle with the concept of having to rely on others. Here in Australia many elderly people live on their own, cut off from family and community. Some of them die in the houses without anyone knowing until days or weeks after. How tragic!
   When we were in the village last year I noticed that my elderly mother-in-law was never without companionship. Her kitchen hut was surrounded by the family huts of her children. One grandchild lived with her to make sure she was fed and safe while a constant stream of people visited her. I can't help thinking that she lives a more satisfying existance than our isolated and lonely old people in Australia.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sensational Survivors by Sandra Morris

Sensational Survivors (Walker Books, 2010)

Sensational Survivors is an illustrated guide to New Zealand's remarkable wildlife and it is beautiful. With almost A4 dimensions, the pages are filled with coloured pictures of New Zealand's creatures, some famous some obscure.
   The watercolour pictures are simple but captivating, particularly the birds and crayfish. Sandra Morris is a gifted wildlife artist who has won awards for her work in the past. Sensational Survivors is a finalist in both the NZ Post Awards and the LIANZA Awards this year.
   The text is sparse but has lots of interesting facts for the young reader. Marine animals are given as much attention in the text as the land creatures. There is even a two page spread on extinct species. 
   This is a delightful book for any children interested in wildlife. I would thoroghly recommend it for primary school aged children.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Painter in Fiji by Douglas Badcock

A Painter in Fiji (Whitcombe and Tombs, 1973)
Sometimes I find the strangest books in second-hand shops. Last week I discovered a small hardcover book called A Painter in Fiji which was published in 1973 by  Whitcombe and Tombs. It is a collection of sixteen paintings by Kiwi  Douglas Badcock. There are also plenty of preliminary sketches inside and some description of the artist's trip to Fiji. 
   Badcock has captured the colour and vibrance of village life well in his artwork. His style is very 'chunky' with broad brush-strokes used to dipict rock formations, coconut leaves and mountain ranges. Detail is sparse and merely suggested but the effect is pleasing. He uses the elements of shade and light well too.
   This book is a good one for the coffee table but it's presentation is dated. Contemporary art books are heaps better in terms of quality, but for something published so long ago this book is definately a treasure.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies (Faber and Faber, 1954)
Lord of the Flies is a modern classic and one that many literature students have studied the world over. It has become a favourite of mine even though I hated it when I first saw the film as a kid. I was terrified then. The dead airman with his billowing parachute filled my nightmares for years. PSSC students have this book as an option when studying a novel. It is certainly worth considering because the book isn't too long and most editions have plenty of study notes at the end to help you with meaning and finding quotes.
   I find the story itself deeply disturbing. How easy it was for a group of boys to kill their peers when forced to fend for themselves on an uninhabited island. 
  The book begins with the boys coming together after their plane has been shot down during a war. They are on a small island and no one knows where they are. They decide to organise themselves in order to be rescued by getting a bonfire ready. But their other aim while they wait on the island is 'to have fun'. Rival leaders Jack and Ralph form the basis of the main conflict in the story but the conflict in Ralph's heart is what makes this book such a brilliant character study. His strained relationship with Piggy is perfectly drawn, with every pause, every nuance of meaning so well written, that the reader feels as if they were inside the characters' heads.
   Lord of the Flies is more than a story of survival on a tropical island. It is a story of how close humans are to anarchy and how the threads of civilisation that bind us all can easily be broken if enough pressure is applied. This book really makes you think and that's why it's such a classic. But it's other strength is its masterful prose. Even if you aren't forced to study this book at some stage through high school, it's worth picking up anyway just for the experience.