04 May 2009

Fishing for Stars

by Bryce Courtenay

Viking Press. Australian, Adult Other. Hardback rrp $49.95

Guest Reviewer - Anastasia Gonis

This is the sequel to the superb, The Persimmon Tree, with a strong environmental theme as background, and outstanding characters that take centre stage through the entire book. There is never a dull word or moment within the almost six hundred pages on this story of love, passion, ambition, and destruction in its many forms. It is sensual and breathtakingly detailed in many parts, and tells in perfect prose, the story of one man and the two women who shared his love and life, at times simultaneously.

Nick is a war hero who lives on Beautiful Bay in Vanuatu and owns an inter-island shipping company. Marg and Anna are both strong and powerful women, although complete opposites. But they are the ‘equal halves’ of a whole and complete love experienced by Nick during his lifetime.

The story begins soon after Anna’s death with Nick’s inability to cope with his loss. His dreams also begin around the same time and he is forcefully returned to the horrendous experiences of his war duty. When Marg finally convinces him to seek help, he is diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and his therapist recommends that he begin a journal. Through this retelling, we learn all about how Marg entered his life as his first sexual encounter and deep love that slipped from his life only to return much later.

Then there is the revealing and tumultuous relationship with the psychologically damaged Anna, whose malleable young mind was manipulated by her captor after she was imprisoned by the Japanese and used as a comfort woman.

The tale travels through Australia, Japan, the Pacific Islands and Indonesia and is set in the second half of the twentieth century. There are many moments of laughter within its clever writing and descriptions, and the well researched information on which the story is based, holds the reader spellbound the entire time.

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