I feel I have to start with Pitcairn Island rather than the book. This island is one of four lumps of rock and/or coral sticking out of the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Only Pitcairn itself is inhabited, being one of the most isolated communities on Earth. The population of under a hundred is predominantly descended from the Mutineers of the Bounty and a few Tahitians, who voluntarily, or not, joined the group. In 1790 just nine individuals 6 men 11 women and a baby found the then deserted island and settled. Since that date the permanent population has never been greater than 240, and is now only a quarter of that number. In recent times the young have tended to leave, firstly for education and secondly for the benefits of the wider world. This problem is now shared by nearly all isolated communities. The life blood is constantly drained, and often faster than it can be transfused.
So what has all this got to do with this fiction novel? Everything! Nadine Christian is the writer in permanent residence, which on my count makes these Islands the most densely concentrated pool of writing talent on Earth. Christian draws heavily on her experience of living on the Island, and of its connections with the rest of the world. The romance is beautifully crafted with a great range of characters, and pulls in so many of the benefits, and problems, both physical and psychological, for communities living in such intense isolation. I really felt I was there, observing a real drama unfold, watching what happens when the pressure cooker of life explodes amongst such an unavoidably tight knit community. The backdrop is truly romantic and at the same time brutally claustrophobic. We see people living in a goldfish bowl when the water is outside.
So what was wrong with the book? Very little, except that in the version I read there were a variety of small typo and sentence construction errors. They may be enough to put off a few pernickety readers, which would be a great pity. Taken as a whole the book reads very well, painting some really beautifully crafted pictures. We look in vivid colour at domestic violence, psychological abuse, passionate and emotional love, lived in and desolate rooms and landscapes, and at the good and bad in people at many stages of life. There is certainly plenty here for the reader of genre romance, which I am only rarely, as well as for those who just like a good read, irrespective of the category a book is pigeonholed in.
Nadine Christian, author, will never have quite the fame of Fletcher Christian, mutineer; but in her own way I think she might well have done almost as much for the future of the Pitcairn Islands as its infamous founding father. Of course, that will require people taking the time to read her stories. I must admit that I only read the book to feed the thin “romantic” ideas I had about Pitcairn. In the process I stumbled upon a more than entertaining story teller; a most fortuitous accident.