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This much admired Australian writer--whose work has not as yet a wide readership here--positions this novel about a native revolution in a small fictional Mediterranean island on the crest of outrage (with a generous broadside of satirical humor). This is about people on the run -- sterling-to-shady expatriate whites, half-castes and natives--with, predictably, more powerful others (French, British, American) angling for more money, more territory. Tommy Narota, a genial and likable hapkas (""half caste""--South Pacific pidgin is lavishly used throughout), son of a long-gone white ""island knockabout,"" had early on opted for his native Kristi half. He established a village, surrounded himself by many wives and children, and visualized the island of Kristi as a happy kingdom, wiped clean of colonial settlers--unless they were prepared to ""swing on the lianas of custom."" The revolution, sparked by this most convivial, naive (and unlikely) of leaders, is accomplished in a spasmodic, yet enthusiastic burst, as Narota's followers--given to impulsive smashing of property rather than killing--taunt the amazed whites. Among those squirming in the press of events: Doc Tremble, whose surgery is smashed; Mrs. T., starched in fury, who flees to a curious refuge--an ex-brothel madam with whom she exchanges confidences; ""Hedmasta"" Woodful, into his second generation of students, resigned to simply ""pressing on,"" although he knew ""the town was never his""; the British District Agent, whose hilarious flight with a caustic wife is like the wild deflation of a penny balloon; Père Leyround, a decent man who reminds the boy Gavi Solway (who has just discovered his mixed parentage and is about to run guns) of the simple fact that ""guns kill."" Gavi will learn that tragedy smokes at the end of a gun muzzle. At the close, once the new colonial rajah is back in the saddle, there's an exodus of the brightest and best--and the betrayed Narota, bewildered and despairing, is in jail. A lively, humorous and angry Third World tale, with its all-too-familiar spectacle of fat cats moving in when the mice dare to roar.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1986
Publisher: Viking