Kava in the Blood by Peter Thomson

Kava in the Blood

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Thomson (Wild Vanilla, 2014, etc.) recounts the two Fijian coups of 1987 in his political memoir.

First published in 1999, this book covers the four months in the summer of 1987 when the government of the newly dominant Indo-Fijians was overthrown by first one and then another military coup. Thomson, a white Fijian of Scottish descent serving as the government’s permanent secretary of information, learned of the first coup when a group of soldiers in gas masks stormed into his office and a lieutenant colonel dictated to Thomson—at gunpoint—an announcement of the coup to be read on the radio. A series of maneuvers resulted in Governor General Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau, a man whom Thomson claims to have respected more than any man other than his own father, becoming the sole executive of Fiji. In the months that followed, Thomson observed Ganilau’s attempts to enforce order and uphold the Fijian constitution as the small Pacific nation lurched unsteadily toward a new form of government. This updated edition, printed in 2008, includes new photographs as well as a second afterword explaining the evolution of the Fijian republic since 1999, including two subsequent coups that have “scarred Fiji’s political landscape.” From the first page, Thomson ably conveys his affection for his homeland: “When you lift your eyes landward from the sunburnt undulations of the Ra coast, you see the Nakauvadra mountain range rising three thousand feet above you.” National and personal history mix to form a narrative that feels as comprehensive as a fine social novel: Fiji is revealed from its highest seat of power to the ubiquitous kava drink shared by Fijians on the roadside. Thomson’s transitional moment of political power proves the perfect entry point to examine a society that has been in perpetual transition for centuries, and the anxieties of 1987 (and 1999 and 2008) seem as relevant today as they did then as nations continue to seek improved forms of government and are forced to contend with the unexpected consequences of revolution.

A deft political memoir that contains a national portrait.

Pub Date: Aug. 4th, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4196-9576-6
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: BookSurge Publishing
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2016


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