No Turning Back, by E.T.W. Fulton

It was a Saturday morning, the day jobs were advertised in the Sydney Morning Herald. I scanned the ‘Positions Vacant’ and spotted ‘Wanted for Rabaul, book-keeper with Island Merchants, apply with written application today…’
‘Where is Rabaul?’ I asked Frank. ‘It’s the capital of New Guinea, I think,’ he said.

So began Ted Fulton’s lifelong love affair with Papua New Guinea, where he would spend most of the next forty years of his life as a gold miner, soldier and plantation owner. Arriving in Rabaul in his early twenties, he soon learnt that if he wanted to make his fortune, a job as a book keeper was not for him. After working a variety of jobs he eventually became a gold miner, before the second world war interrupted.

As a soldier, Ted fought in the middle east before returning to Papua New Guinea, where he was deployed behind enemy lines. When the war finished, he settled briefly back in Australia, before taking his wife and first child back to Rabaul, where he became a successful planter.

For any one with an interest in the Pacific and especially Papua New Guinea, this is a detailed account, told in a no-nonsense first person voice. Fulton is matter of fact about his recollections of the hardships of war and of life in remote jungle areas, leaving the reader to interpret some of the emotions those experienced must have engendered.

A wonderful insight into one man’s life and to the events of the times.

No Turning Back, by E. T. W. Fulton
Pandanus Books, 2005

Noble Sindhu Horse, by Lynette Chataway

When Francis and Ava go to Thailand for two years, the expect to come back to Australia changed. They do come back different, but not in the way they had hoped. Both find life back in Australia increasingly unsatisfying, but neither really understands the cause of this dissatisfaction.

Meanwhile, in Thailand, Nikkon, a farm labourer, finds his own life a struggle as he tries to negotiate a spiritually and emotionally satisfying path through life. While Nikkon’s and Francis’s paths do cross, the stories are parallel rather than intertwined, exploring how disenchantment is a human condition not confined to particular cultures or circumstances.

Noble Sindhu Horses is a story whose theme will resonate with many readers. Ava, Francis and Nikkon are characters whose inner lives are believable and for whom it is possible to have empathy – making the story moving and very real.

Noble Sindhu Horses, by Lynette Chataway
Pandanus Books, 2005

The Lost Tribe, by Jane Downing

When Marianne inherits the family home, built by her ancestor Mary Anne Clarissa Purcell, she also inherits a passion. Mrs Purcell was an adventurous woman who, in 1864, had set sail with her husband to explore the Pacific in his trading ship, and found herself living with missionaries on the island of Medolan.

Marianne is considered the quiet one of the family, so when she decides to retrace her ancestor’s roots and return to Medolan, her family are surprised. But once there, Marianne finds herself developing a passion for the place and for its secrets – secrets which she could never have imagined. As Mary Ann Clarissa’s story unfolds, so too does Marianne’s own, as she learns as much about herself as about her ancestor.

The Lost Tribe tells the twin stories of these two women, connected by blood but separated by generations. Readers will find themselves absorbed in both tales, fascinated by the mysteries and absorbed by the cultures of the missionaries of the nineteenth century and of the islanders they work with.

A strongly woven story.

The Lost Tribe, by Jane Downing
Pandanus Books, 2005

The Stone Ship, by Peter Raftos

When Shipton takes himself to a remote island to commit suicide, he feels that all is lost. His wife has died in chidbirth and he has severed links with his family and his job as a bureaucrat. As he sits alone on the island, trying to figure the best way to end his life, he is rescued by a ghost, who seeks his favour in return for saving his life.

Led by the ghost, Shipton travels to a far off university, a massive stone structure surrounded by sea. Here, amidst the labyrinth passages, staircases, rooms and apartments, Shipton is forced to do the ghost’s bidding and extract revenge against a professor who has wronged him. But lurking deep beneath the university is a creature whose demands may indeed be stronger than those of the ghost.

This is a dark but intriguing first novel, with the reader never quite sure what is real and what is not. The University is a massive place, managed by a Kafkaesque bureaucracy and presided over by a chancellor who has lived for more than two hundred years. In the library, rampaging librarians battle over books and relics, and books which have lost their meaning rot in dark cellars. The creature which dwells beneath the university feasts on the dead and on those who must be punished.

Readers with a love for the absurd will revel in this brooding fable.

The Stone Ship, by Peter Raftos
Pandanus Books, 2005