CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Wright, Ronald.

New York, Viking, c1986. 257pp, cloth, $22.95, ISBN 0-670-80634-Z. Distributed by Penguin Canada. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Algis Tribinevicius

Volume 14 Number 6
1986 November

Ronald Wright received his M.A. from Cambridge University, where he read archaeology and anthropology. He has excavated in Latin America and Africa, and has farmed and driven trucks in Canada. Since 1980 he has made his living as a free-lance writer and broadcaster, presenting documentaries for the CBC and American Public Radio. His first book, Cut Stones and Crossroads: A Journey in the Two Worlds of Peru (Viking) was published in 1984.

Wright observes that societies that do not eat people are fascinated by those that do, or did. Known for years as the "Cannibal Isles," the Pacific islands that make up the Fiji group are home to a variegated society that has come a long way since Thomas Baker, a Methodist missionary, was killed and eaten on Viti Levu in 1867. Fiji is a modern nation and archipelago of cultures that flourishes despite the invasion of colonizers and the modern world. Wright explores the exotic islands and the reasons for Fiji's success, fashioning a blend of travel memoir and historical narrative as a vantage point from which to observe the changes. He addresses the question of whether contact between Western civilization and tribal peoples leads to an inevitable catastrophe for the natives and shows us how the Fijians have averted the usual disaster. Somehow they have survived colonization with their land, language, and culture largely intact. Their culture has changed dramatically in the last century, with the Fijians achieving independence from Britain and sharing their home with immigrants. But, they have managed to adapt their way of life without deforming it, to enter the modern world without loss of their identity.

The book has black-and-white line maps on the inside covers, contains a chronology of Fijian history from 1500 B.C. to the present, a glossary of Fijian terms, source notes, a bibliography, and an index. It is organized into chapters, each being the name of an island in the Fijian group. The book would be suitable at a senior level of study, especially in the comparative studies of native peoples.

Algis Tribinevicius, Tehkummah, Manitoulin Island, Ont.
line indexes


1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


The materials in this archive are copyright © The Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission Copyright information for reviewers

Young Canada Works