Advent Island is a place beyond the reaches of Bea’s most fitful imaginings. It’s not just the rats and the hordes of mosquitos and the weevils in the powdered milk. Past the confines of their stuffy little house, amidst the damp and the dust and the sweltering heat, rumours are spreading of devil chasers who roam the island on the hunt for evil spirits. And then there are the noises from the church at night.
Yet, to the amusement of the locals and the bafflement of her husband, Bea gradually adapts to life on the island. But with the dreadful events heralded by the arrival of an unexpected, wildly irritating and always-humming house guest, Advent Island becomes a hostile place once again. And before long, trapped in the jungle and in the growing fever of her husband’s insanity, Bea finds herself fighting for her freedom, and for her life.
What I Thought:
I seem to have read quite a few debut novels recently – some better than others – but in general, if the standard of these debut authors is anything to go by, the publishing industry is in rude health and will be for the forseeable future.
Things Bright and Beautiful is Anbara Salam’s first novel but already her writing style is so accomplished in expressing the heat, humidity and opposive nature of the South Pacific that it makes this book a must-read.
As a confirmed old atheist, the religious aspects of this book interest me – I know my view of Missionaries and their quest to spread the Word to so-called uncivilised people and the fact that this book is set in the 1950s, and that that was still going on did surprise me.
The book itself is a thing of beauty – the designers at Fig Tree get a gold star as the rainforest cover, complete with snakes and creepy crawlies, sets the scene perfectly for the text and the sense of menace Bea first feels living in a remote South Pacific village.
The rainforest is brilliantly depicted almost as a character in itself as Bea uses it to navigate her way on the Island and as a source of supplementary food, while her husband Max begins to feel it close in on him as his South Pacific adventure is less like the musical than he thought it would be. Despite Max’s best intentions, the locals seem to prefer others to provide them with their spiritual comfort and then the old missionary comes back…
As I said, it’s clearly stated that this book takes place in the 1950s, but it really has the feel of a Victorian gothic novel, especially as Max’s religious fervour begins to grow and Bea realises that the man she married is no longer in his right mind and that she may be in real danger.
This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the publication of Things Bright and Beautiful, so please do check out some of the other fantastic blogs below for more reviews and exclusive content.
Please note: I was sent a copy of this book to enable participation in the blog tour. All opinions are, as ever, my own.