Dark Paradise: Norfolk Island by Robert Macklin

DarkParadiseDark Paradise beings with Macklin’s scathing opinion of British colonisation and their successful propaganda as a means of justifying their actions. He continues with Captain James Cook’s discovery of Norfolk Island in 1774, which was uninhabited at the time. His reports lead to the settlement of Norfolk Island by Lieutenant Philip Gidley King in 1788 as a penal colony, with just “15 convicts … and seven free men” (p. 20). What follows are detailed accounts of the brutal treatment of hundreds of convicts encountered at the hands of one sadistic commander after another over nearly a century. What was an idyllic location with arable land and a beautiful landscape, became a nightmare for convicts, and at times their overseers. It is mind boggling that humans could treat other humans with such contempt and torment – many for petty crimes – although Norfolk Island became reserved for those convicts deemed the worst. The convicts themselves staged a number of failed breakouts over the decades and violence and sodomy amongst each other was also rife.

The island housed up to 2,000 convicts in vile conditions before it was vacated in 1856 to be resettled by 194 Pitcairners, who were of the false assumption that they would be “granted a new homeland” (p. 228). This lead to the struggles of the islanders to assert themselves and live by their own ways up to the present time. Macklin also reveals the story of the mutiny of the Bounty crew and how Fletcher Christian and eight of his loyalists came to settle on Pitcairn Island with a number of Tahitians. The history of Pitcairn was one marred by murder, the activation of a sill which introduced the islanders to liquor, causing further trouble, and incestuous relations and illegitimate children due to the disparity between the number of men and women.

The population of Norfolk Island grew, particularly when it became the base of a Melanesian mission, yet it always fell under some form of British or Australian governance or administration. The book is concluded with the murder of Janelle Patton in 2002 and subsequent investigation, then sadly details an island cursed by alcohol, drugs, an ailing economy, waning tourism and a stubborn populace.

I happily snapped up Dark Paradise from a sale table recently as my husband has ancestors from Norfolk and Pitcairn Islands (his mother being born on Norfolk Island) and was keen to learn about his heritage. I found the history that Macklin details to be fascinating and it prompted me to undertake further research. The impact of colonialism on Australia was also brought home with the number of names mentioned throughout the text which are familiar as being Australian townships, rivers, landmarks and so on. At times the repetitive nature of the historical facts became a little monotonous and I had some difficulty keeping track of the many individuals introduced throughout.

Publisher Synopsis

“Aren’t remote South Pacific islands supposed to be paradise? Perhaps, from a distance, Norfolk Island looks a peaceful place lush with tall pines. But look closer and that idyllic façade is shattered.

For all of the 220 years we have known it, Norfolk’s story has been one of darkness, pain, rage and horror. Long-buried bones and axes hint at the violence before Captain Cook arrived and claimed the place for England. And then the horror truly began. From its earliest days, the isolation of life on this rocky outcrop took its toll.

Robert Macklin, author of bestselling SAS Sniper, tells the vivid, bewitching story of how a unique lifestyle and culture evolved amongst the almost two thousand inhabitants. From a brutal penal colony, a refuge for descendants of the Bounty mutineers when they outgrew Pitcairn Island in 1856, to the murder of Janelle Patton in 2002, Norfolk Island is exposed like never before. A place full of shadows and wrongful deaths, its history is a mesmerising tale all the more powerful because it is true.”

ISBN: 9780733628603

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Joss Whedon: Geek King of the Universe by Amy Pascale

JossWhedonPascale’s biography starts off with a very brief foreword by Nathan Fillion, star of Whedon’s Firefly and Serenity, however it’s hardly worth the mention on the book’s cover given its length and lack of expression. Once the story kicks off though, we are given a history of Whedon and his creative family, along with the seeds of his love of film, comics and musicals. Joss’s own experiences are likened to later scenes in his writing, showing how he draws on these in the creation of his work.

Joss is shown to have an aura of self-assurance in his craft throughout this biography, even if he wasn’t as confident in other facets of his life, such as his romantic encounters, although he finds a wife and soulmate in Kai Cole who supports his endeavours wholeheartedly. The bonds with the women in his life such as his mother, wife and mentor Jeanine Basinger of Wesleyan College are featured strongly throughout the narrative, along with the familial ties he forms with the cast and crew who work with him over the years.

Given her passion toward her subject and his work, Pascale does provide a somewhat biased account of Whedon and doesn’t particularly portray him as taking responsibility for his failures and the not so successful start to his career, pinpointing difficulties on other parties. Perhaps I am being cynical, but it seems that Whedon can do no wrong and no one has a negative opinion of him. That being said, this is undoubtedly not a book you would read if not a fan of Whedon’s work so this is not of significant concern.

Most notably known for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Whedon was a forerunner in utilising the internet to connect with his very loyal and devoted fan base. Pascale charts his popularity along with the highs and lows of his career, from his early days writing for Roseanne, through to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. She also encompasses his forays in writing, directing and producing. I enjoyed reading how some of his signature programs, episodes and movies came about and the additional insight Pascale afforded these. The book also provides a fascinating insight into the art of screenwriting and the film industry.

Publisher Synopsis

“Joss Whedon is a male writer whose most famous creation is a girl-power icon; a geek who deals in classic themes of love, betrayal and redemption; and one of the first people in the entertainment industry to have harnessed the power of the internet to engage directly with his fans.

Amy Pascale became one of those fans when Buffy Summers enrolled at Sunnydale High in 1997. She has followed Whedon’s career ever since, marvelling at his ability to reimagine seemingly hackneyed genres as heartfelt human drama.

In this revealing biography she seeks out the source of that imagination, exploring his artistic liberal upbringing in New York and teenage years at an elite English public school, before tracing his journey from a bruising start in television to his status today as a blockbuster writer and director whose every new project is pored over online by millions of loyal geeks.

Using extensive original interviews with many of Whedon’s key collaborators – as well as Joss himself – Amy presents candid behind-the-scenes accounts of the making of ground-breaking shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly, and considers Whedon’s distinctive contribution to cinema through movies such as Toy Story, Serenity and superhero epic The Avengers.

The result is an intimate portrait of the man who re-wrote popular culture and gave it a heart.”

ISBN: 9781845137199

The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do

HappiestRefugeeThe Happiest Refugee is Anh Do’s story from his childhood years, through to his foray into comedy and beyond. His memoir begins with his harrowing escape from Vietnam, with forty family members and friends on a small fishing boat. Surviving five days at sea where they battled death, pirates and the elements, his family were rescued and sent to a Malaysian refugee camp where they spent three months before arriving in Australia in 1980.

On arrival in Australia, Do expresses his family’s delight at the welcome they received and it is uplifting to read that he experienced little racism during his life in Australia. Do upholds his Vietnamese culture which is embraced by the many friends in his life. Throughout the book, he expresses his admiration and respect for his hardworking, resourceful and entrepreneurial family, who make their way in their new home through a series of endeavours such as sewing and duck farming. Do touchingly describes his father’s decent into grief and alcoholism following a failed venture, their years of estrangement and eventual reconciliation.

Do writes in a matter of fact style, with a series of short narratives compiled together to make up his colourful life. Scattered throughout is his adorable trademark humour, whilst the reader is also privy to his down to earth, genuine attitude whilst sharing in his gratitude for those who have made an impact on his life. Throughout his life Do and his family experienced financial hardship, yet he relentlessly pursued his dreams whilst working hard to support his mother, brother and sister without complaint. His story is inspiring and a delight to read.

ISBN: 9781742372389

Birth School Metallica Death Volume 1 by Paul Branigan & Ian Winwood

 

MetallicaI must preface this review by admitting that I am a fan of Metallica and I don’t imagine anyone who isn’t would want to read this biography.

As noted in the title, this is a review on Volume 1, with Volume 2 still to be released later this year. Volume 1 covers the conception of the band and its founding members through to the eve of the release of their self titled ‘Black Album’ in 1991, detailing changes in line-up along their journey. The book covers Metallica’s beginnings in LA, to San Francisco, New York and the wider world, and their musical influences including the ‘New Wave of British Heavy Metal’. A short biography on each band member is included, along with their individual idiosyncrasies, and interesting and humorous anecdotes are peppered throughout.

Whilst some of the many details of concerts and recording can become a little monotonous, along with the quotes of Lars Ulrich in particular, and the volume contains the odd spelling and grammatical errors, this is still a fascinating and enlightening read.

The authors of the biography are both respected music journalists having written for Rolling Stone and Kerrang! magazines, to name a few.

The egos of the band members, along with their music, may not be to everyone’s taste but you can’t discredit Metallica’s longevity and business decisions. I am looking forward to the next instalment.

Publisher Synopsis

“Metallica are one of the biggest bands of all time. The California quartet have sold more than 100 million albums worldwide, won nine Grammy Awards and had five consecutive albums hit number one on the US Billboard chart.

But theirs is a tale about much more than just sales figures and critical acclaim – and their journey from scuzzy Los Angeles garages to the world’s most famous stadiums has been both dramatic and painful.

Birth School Metallica Death is the definitive account of the ‘Led Zeppelin of their generation’. It’s a story about family, community, self-belief and the pursuit of dreams, which unfolds through first-hand interviews with the band and those closest to it.

Piece by piece, Paul Brannigal and Ian Winwood reveal just how Metallica have stayed ahead of the competition for so many years, and in Volume 1 – the first half of this epic story – they detail the band’s rise to international fame right up until the eve of the release of their seminal ‘Black Album’.”

ISBN: 9780571294145