The Sex Lives of Cannibals – J. Maarten Troost (2004)

book259Despite its rather immature title (which sort of makes sense once you have read, but not really), this was actually a pretty funny book about a young journalist and his girlfriend who both end up on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for two years.
Troost (who could well be compared with a younger Bill Bryson – similar sense of humors) writes engagingly on life on Kiribati, a tiny atoll and one of the Marshall Islands. His g-friend has been assigned as an aid worker for the island for two years, and Troost’s descriptions of island life are hysterical in places. There are no cheap shots or disrespectful comments about anyone. It’s more like having a drink with one of your more funny friends who has just returned from traveling.

Kiribati seems not to have paid much attention to the outside world apart from a few things. Sure, missionaries have come and gone, the Brits had colonized it and left an enduring impact, but generally speaking, the island and its inhabitants have only adjusted to modern life to a small degree and with some reluctance.

It’s a hot and humid place (a place that would not be my ideal home – I like either air conditioning or moderate to cold temps) and there is only intermittent electricity and small variety in food and drink (although there seems to be plenty of alcohol freely around). Despite it being a tropical island, it wasn’t a verdant rain forest place – it was an atoll made of volcanic rock so not much could grow there and there wasn’t a natural source of water (apart from the rain).

Troost is there mainly as the slacker writer half of a pair (his girlfriend aid agency worker), and so as it is from his perspective, it seems a pretty relaxed way of living. He stays at home, learns to surf and helps out with food prep when Sylvia is working on public health education with the islanders. He’s supposed to be writing a novel, but we all know how that can go at times:

I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done, so now all I have to do is fill in the rest. (Stephen Wright).

So, nothing too deep and meaningful here – just some well written and pretty hilarious travel writing about life on a remote island in the Pacific and all that entails. (Lots of eating seafood, naturally. Bleugh. )

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