Thea Astley: Beachmasters


The latest addition to my website is Thea Astley‘s Beachmasters. This book is set on the fictitious Pacific island of Kristi but is clearly based on what used to be the New Hebrides and is now Vanuatu. It tells the story of a somewhat ramshackle rebellion against the joint colonial powers, the British and the French, though the island of Kristi is occupied by the British. The rebellion is led by a half-caste and Astley clearly feels sympathy for both the natives and half-castes who have been exploited by the colonisers and who feel powerless. She mocks both colonial powers in the form of their representatives but also mildly mocks the rebellion. The rebels forewarn the people the day before, by knocking on their doors and telling them to stay inside the next day. One man is killed, though it is not clear how but most of the rebellion involves violence against property rather than against people. They even stop for lunch. The leader, Tommy Narota, is something of an opportunist and, while he clearly favours rebellion, he also seems just to want to show off. We know, from the beginning of the book, that his rebellion will fail and that he will be sent to prison for seven years. The book jumps around bit and while Astley clearly makes her point against colonialism, it does not always work as a novel.

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