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.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Where We Once Belonged by Sia Figiel

Where We Once Belonged
(Pasifika Press, 1997)
This book is challenging in that there is an awful lot of Samoan language peppered throughout and if you don't understand Samoan then you feel as if you're missing out on chunks of the story. The other thing which confronts readers is its unconventional structure. It doesn't follow a conventional linear narrative. Instead the reader gets the feeling that they are thrown in among a group of reminiscing or indeed gossiping teenage girls that they've never met and who continually lapse into their mother tongue or change the subject. The effect is actually engaging. You see how life in a Samoan village revolves around family and how this can be both a blessing and a burden. The central character Alofa struggles to assert herself and draw away from family expectations. Her friends are colourful and controversial and their stories are all fascinating.
   The book contains a sprinkling of mythology and shows how this ties the people to their land. People are depicted in a blunt way and Figiel's imagery is evocative. There are even a few poems in the text which also work well.
   I can't say I understood everything in this novel, but it was an eye-opening journey into adolescent life in Samoa in the 1970s. It also won the Commonwealth Writer's prize for the Asia Pacific region in 1997.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Last Men by Iago Corazza

The Last Men by Iago Corazza. (2008,White Star Publishers)
This book is breath-taking! I am known to take pretty average photographs so when I come across a coffee-table book of such exquisite photographic portraiture I am in awe. Corazza and his colleagues travelled to Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya and attended sing-sings in the highlands. There they took hundreds of photographs of the myriad of costumes and finery on display. Costumes displayed everything from moss and shells to cassowary beaks, boar tusks, bird-of-paradise feathers, leaves, bilums and penis gourds.
   The detail in the pictures is so fine that you can imagine these proud and scary warriors right before you, complete with sweat and face paints.
   The book's full title is The last Men: Journey Among the Tribes of New Guinea but it seems to also be published as Farewell to the Last Man: Irian Jaya and Papua New Guinea. No matter what the title, it is just magnificent!
   Please note that the link above takes you to Corazza's website which is written in Italian but there are some super photographs at the introduction which give you a taste of his amazing work.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Throwim Way Leg by Tim Flannery

Throwim Way Leg
(Text, 1998)
If you are fascinated by the amazing wild life of New Guinea then this book is a real treasure. Scientist Tim Flannery spent many years travelling to New Guinea to undertake field research into the mammals there and has cobbled together a fascinating collection of anecdotes and accounts of his travels and work in the beautiful and often treacherous mountains of this large tropical island.
The Dingiso, a ground-living tree
 kangaroo discovered by  Flannery in
1994. Source: T. Flannery
   Flannery's descriptions of the landscape are evocative. It was easy to imagine the colourful frogs in the moss, the misty cold mountain tops and the fierce flooded waterways.
   A set of colour plates in the centre of the book shows some of the people he worked with, the stunning terrain and a few of the creatures he encountered.
   I loved this book and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in ecology or travel writing. For those interested in traditional lifestyles Throwim Way Leg tells of many customs of the Mountain people, how their way of life is changing due to Western influence and how this in turn impacts upon wildlife conservation.