Monday, March 25, 2013

Fishing for Stars by Bryce Courtenay

The latest book that I read is Fishing for Stars by Bryce Courtenay. Goodreads link is located here: I am no longer going to put spoiler alerts in the title of my entries on books, from now on, if you want to read a book review by me, you are reading at your own risk. You have been warned.

When I took this book out of my cupboard (I had bought it last year and it had been lying in my cupboard collecting dust since then) and read the description, I was a bit hesitant to read the book thinking it would be really boring as the description sounded so boring. But then I thought to myself that I must’ve seen something in it if I bought it (I am very picky in choosing books) so I must give it a try with an open mind. It is a decision that I do not regret because this turned out to be an excellent book.

Unfortunately I had the exact same luck with this  book that I had with the previous two books that I read. This book is a freakin sequel!!!  It has a prequel and this book is its sequel. Its like sequels are coming after me or something, LOL. However, thankfully I did not experience the usual problem that one experiences with sequels. I did not feel as if this book has a prequel nor at any point did I experience the need to want to read the prequel. All the characters were so well introduced and well formed that you felt like you actually know these people, as if they are your friends or your relatives or your neighbours or somebody to you.

Bryce Courtenay is a South African author who has lived most of his life in Australia. I was reading his mini-biography on Goodreads and turns out that he has lived a very eventful and colourful life with quite unusual and unique experiences. I believe this is something that reflects in his work as even in this book the characters have lived colourful lives with unusual and unique experiences.

This happens to be one of those books that a person really learns from. Even though the book itself may be a work of fiction, it consists of many factual items in it. Reading this book taught a lot about the Yakuza, which is the Japanese mafia and how they operate. You get to learn about their hierarchy, their focus on extreme discipline and obedience, how extreme punishments are carried out for the most minor of mistakes and the decision making process. Japanese culture is really explored in detail, especially how complicated gender roles are in Japanese society and the complex rules and regulations surrounding honour.

We even learn about environmental efforts in Tasmania and how the war in East Timor really impacted the environment there due to underhand government dealings and what efforts were undertaken in order to preserve the environment and protect the natural habitat of varies species that live in the region.  

This book revolves around a guy, Nicolas Duncan who is an old guy and a former soldier who served during the Second World War who has made a lot of money in the shipping business and living a quiet and assuming life on a small island in Australia. This book is written in an autobiographical style as we are reading the memoirs that Nicolas Duncan has written about his life after the Second World War and the two ladies in his life and how they both, at the end had made an agreement with each other to share him yet the two ladies have their rivalries calling each other Princess Plunder and Green Bitch behind each other’s backs.

One of those ladies is Anna, whom Duncan met when she and her father were escaping the Japanese invasion illegally on a boat. The boat had shipwrecked with Anna being the sole survivor. Many years pass in between after which Anna and Duncan reunite where we learn that Anna is a heroin addict and a shrewd businesswoman with a very keen eye for business and an obsession for money, making her a multi billionaire many times over. And it is through Anna that we learn about Japan as Anna had lived part of her life in Japan plus she and Duncan went on a long trip to Japan where it turns out that Duncan’s friend since the past 25 years is actually the head of the Japanese Yakuza.

The second lady is Marg. Marg is a navy admiral’s widow with two children. Marg and Duncan first met when Duncan was in the armed forces and then separated when Marg got married. We learn about the Tasmanian environmental struggles through Marg as Marg is very passionate about the environment. She is a member of the Tasmanian Green Party and a member of parliament and a vocal advocate for protecting the natural habitats of frogs and orangutans.

In conclusion, it is a very interesting book. Written in memoir style, it follows the diverse and unique lives of three very interesting, diverse and unique individuals.

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