Thursday, 28 May 2015

Read in 2015 - 17: Paradise Island

When I came across "Paradise Island" in 2012 as one of many free ebooks in Amazon's kindle store, I didn't know what it was about. Also, I'd never heard the name of the author, Brandon Royal, before. Was this going to be an adventure story of the "Treasure Island" type, or a travel log such as the voyages of Captain Cook which I have read last year?

The subtitle reads "An Armchair Philosopher's Guide to Human Nature (or "Life Lessons You Learn While Surviving Paradise")".

Admittedly, the lessons and alleged philosophical guidance of the book were quite lost on me; I read it as a story, and was in vain trying to make real hand and foot of it.

Still, it was a pleasurable read during my train trips to and from work and in the doctor's waiting room, because the writing style is elegant and sometimes witty. Also, it is short enough (approx. 82 pages, according to Amazon) not to feel like a waste of time or to become so boring as to be put aside.

The book starts with the narrator making the acquaintance of The Map Maker, an old man who draws and occasionally sells maps. Some of the maps are accurately representing the real geography of places, while others are fantasy maps, adorned with vignettes and shown only to select customers*.

When the Map Maker dies, he leaves his journal to the narrator, and the rest of the book consists of excerpts from that journal, with additional philosophical comments by the narrator.

When the Map Maker was a young man, he travelled extensively, and somehow found his way to Paradise Island, where he drank, talked, listened, loved and lived long enough to co-own a bar and build a house.

So far, so good.

However, I do not feel like recommending this book as I maybe could have done, for one reason: In my opinion, it idealises and romanticises (does such a word exist in English?) prostitution and drinking.

Those who know me personally know that I am far from being a prude; I don't mind explicit scenes (there aren't any here, really) in a book when they fit the story and are well written, and you all know that I do love my cocktails. But...

...I don't think it is all that "romantic" for young island women to work at bars where their job is to make rich travellers fall for their exotic beauty and spend a lot of money on drinks for them and themselves, and perform enticing dances and take the bar-goers as lovers who then are obliged to finance not only their girlfriends but also their entire, numerous families. It's prostitution, plain and simple, not love or romance.

So, in spite of those aspects that made the book pleasurable enough, I'd only give it 2 out of 5 stars. Maybe I was just being too stubborn to pick up on the philosophical lessons, and viewed the whole book too much from a female perspective (hardly surprising, none of the rich travelling bar-goers are women).

From the author's website I gather he has written several educational books (non-fiction) which sound far better than what I happened to come across here.

*This has high potential for a really great story, but the book does not actually follow up on the fantastic idea. I have seen, though, that there is a book "The Map Maker" by the same author... it is tempting, but I fear I'll be in for disappointment if I download and read that one.


  1. "Romanticise" is indeed a real word, Meike, and you have used it correctly. Thanks for the tip, I would probably feel exactly as you do about the book. So glad to see you're up and about and posting again. xoxox Carol

    1. Thank you, Carol,, I am glad to be back to (almost) normal, too.

  2. I admire your tenacity Meike.

    1. There was still enough of a storyline for me to stick to it during those train trips, otherwise I would have simply put it aside.

  3. I'm so glad that you are well again......And I hope you find a more satisfying book for your next read! I don't think I would have continued with the one you described! But I see it held your interest enough for you to finish it.

    1. Thank you, Kristi, me too!
      While I was reading this, I kept looking at the percentage visible at the bottom of the kindle "pages", and had I not seen that I was making good progress, I would have most likely given up.