From Publishers Weekly
First-time author Randell, a veteran British documentary filmmaker, demonstrates his skilled storytelling in this account of the life and times of Jack Renton, a teenage Scottish sailor who, in 1868, jumped ship near the Solomon Islands and was rescued by a tribe of headhunters from the Pacific island of Malaita. Combining a close reading of a biography of Renton published after he was found eight years later, oral histories from Malaitians and original research, Randell shows that Renton's story encompasses much more than the fact that "no white man had survived for such a length of time in a stone-age culture and no one had ever become so acculturated." He shows how the Malaitian culture was far more complex than the simple image of "headhunters" popularized after Renton's recovery, a society "where the relationship between the living and the dead was a life-long dialogue." Randell also shows that Renton airbrushed his own story to hide just how well he had adapted to his surroundings-killing and headhunting to survive and achieve acceptance among the Malaitians. The most fascinating and horrendous part of Randell's work, however, deals with "the onslaught of white civilization" into the Pacific after Renton's story, as well as that of Captain Cook, became popular-a "remorseless haemorrhaging of population" as thousands of Pacific islanders died from diseases brought by Christian missionaries and syphilis-wracked sailors.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
About the Author
Nigel Randell spent twenty-five years making documentary films in various parts of the world. This is his first book.
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