Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Review

During Henry's naps this weekend I read a book, The White Headhunter, by Nigel Randell. Meg and I were so exhausted from watching a sick little Henry, that neither of us did too much this weekend. Unfortunately he's still sick and Meg is now home alone with him.

The book is good and is well written, especially for a first time writer, but it has one really weird thing about it. The first half of the book, 150 pages or so, is the story of Jack Renton a European who was fully indoctrinated into Melanesian society and the later half felt a lot like filler and concerned the area's experience with "civilization." It was as if the author finished one story and decided that the book was long enough so kept writing.

Jack Renton was a young Scotsman who in 1868 was shanghaied (drugged and thrown unwillingly thrown on a ship) in San Fransisco by his landlord. He and three others ditched this ship on one island and made an ill-fated attempt to make it to another island. They washed up on the short of a South Pacific island known for cannibalism. Jack was bought by a local cheif and was adopted by the local culture. He was rescued eight years later by a recruiter's ship. After arriving in Australia he was interviewed by newspapermen for a serialized telling of his story. The author used this story, some local oral histories about him and knowledge about the culture to tell his tale.

How much of the local culture he adopted is debatable. Jack was vague about some of his experiences on the island, but the oral histories suggested that he was a very respected warrior. He even brought back a necklace with the teeth of at least nine humans and a war club back to Scotland. He claimed these were other people's property. After being rescued he spent the rest of his short life working for the Australian government to ensure that ships recruiting island laborers did so humanely. On one such trip he was killed and eaten by natives.

Found: 1 nickel (at Sovereign Bank), 1 dime (at Sovereign Bank)