Things Bright and Beautiful by Anbara Salam
Published in: 2018
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Find it here: Things Bright and Beautiful
This ARC was provided by Penguin Books UK (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis from Goodreads: Mission House was not built for three people. Especially when one of them won’t stop humming.
1954, the South Pacific islands. When Beatriz Hanlon agreed to accompany her missionary husband Max to a remote island, she knew there would be challenges. But it isn’t just the heat and the damp and the dirt. There are more insects than she could ever have imagined, and the islanders are strangely hostile. And then there are the awful noises coming from the church at night.
Yet as the months go by, Bea slowly grows accustomed to life on the island. That is until an unexpected and interminably humming guest arrives, and the couple’s claustrophobic existence is stretched to breaking point.
Events draw to a terrible climax, and Bea watches helplessly as her husband’s guilt drives him into madness. It’s not long before Bea finds herself fighting for her freedom and her life.
Book Worm’s Thoughts: The first thing I have to say about this book is that I love the cover. It is colourful, vibrant, and has that hint of danger which really reflects the story.
Like Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, the message of the book is that white foreigners really should leave the tropics to those who were born there and who understand the land. The tropics are often fatal to foreigners and there are no shortage of potential killers. In this novel the deadliness comes from the change in diet to a very basic rice and greens diet, the insect and animal population, diseases, the weather, and even the land itself.
Missionaries Bea and Max journey to the South Pacific Islands expecting to save the souls of the natives. Instead, they find themselves fighting to save themselves. While on the surface the islanders appear to have accepted Christianity, traditions and superstitions remain strong influences for them.
This novel explores how Max and Bea learn to cope with island life and their changing relationship when they are put in a situation which allows no room for escape, and little contact with the world they left behind.
Who would enjoy this? I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys books that focus on characters rather than on intense action. This book does have action, but the most interesting pieces are those that center on the people and their changing relationships.
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