BOOK REVIEW: Among the Islands: Adventures in the Pacific (Tim Flannery, Text)

In search of critically endangered mammals in the Pacific, a young Tim Flannery spent much of the late 1980s exploring some of the world’s final frontiers, encountering killer snakes, corrupt officials, mountains of bat faeces and stories of cannibalism along the way. He tells his story with an infectious passion for the wildlife he studied, and also pays homage to the colonial explorers in whose footsteps he followed. Flannery, who is currently serving as chief commissioner of the independent Climate Commission, makes clear the impact of climate change on threatened species but avoids preaching. Indeed, Among the Islands is surprisingly funny at times, particularly when Flannery reflects on the often eccentric colleagues and predecessors who shared his passion for endangered creatures. This is the third book in a loose trilogy that includes Throwim Way Leg and Country. It is a rollicking adventure story that will entertain amateur zoologists young and old. By populating the narrative with interesting characters as well as fascinating creatures and spectacular environments, Flannery also keeps the story interesting for those without a deep interest in science.

Andrew Rankin is a former REDgroup employee. This review first appeared in the October issue of  Bookseller+Publisher magazine.

Top picks from the current issue

Which books got good reviews in the October issue of Bookseller+Publisher you ask?

Well…

The proof copy of Caroline Overington’s novel I Came to Say Goodbye came covered in glowing quotes from Random House staff who’ve read the book and our reviewer Scott Whitmont has joined the chorus. He calls the novel ‘a gripping blockbuster that booksellers can recommend unreservedly’ and predicts Overington’s following ‘is destined to grow in leaps and bounds’.

Toni Whitmont was impressed with That Deadman Dance by Miles Franklin winner Kim Scott (Picador, October), suggesting it will ‘surely attract consideration for a raft of major prizes’. ‘While the story is compelling,’ writes Whitmont, ‘what makes this an extraordinary book is the writing. Scott’s prose shimmers.’

Andrew Wilkins was equally taken with a collection of work by the late Dorothy Porter. Love Poems (Black Inc., October) ‘brings together poems and song lyrics from across Porter’s career, gathered into sections that suggest love in its various phases’ and is ‘simply an essential collection of Australian poetry,’ says Wilkins.

Other eagerly awaited books being reviewed in this issue include Tim Flannery’s Here On Earth (Text, October), which Eliza Metcalf says is ‘an important read’. ‘Flannery traces our species’ evolution and expansion out of Africa and across the globe, noting the trail of destruction we left in our wake,’ she writes. ’The picture he paints is a fairly devastating one, but also quite awe-inspiring.’

Paul Landymore assures readers that When Colts Ran, the new novel by Roger McDonald (Vintage, November), lives up to expectations raised by the author’s Miles Franklin win in 2006. ‘If you’re a fan of Australian literature then I’m sure you will find this book, as I did, a deeply satisfying read,’ writes Landymore.

Deborah Crabtree, our regular music book columnist, was taken with Paul Kelly’s How to Make Gravy (Hamish Hamilton, October), a book that grew out of series of performances Kelly put on in 2004. ‘Part memoir, part tour diary, part song-writing manual, this sprawling book is filled with all manner of letters, lists, confessions, hymns and yarns,’ writes Crabtree, adding that the book gives Kelly ‘space to explore his storytelling skills further, which he does admirably, weaving in and out of the past and present easily and with an intimacy that invites the reader into his world’.

And that’s not to mention Lloyd Jones’ Hand Me Down World (Text, October), Kate Holden’s The Romantic (Text, October), Things Bogans Like (E C McSween et al, Hachette, November), Toni Jordan’s Fall Girl (Text, October), and many, many more…

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