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An environmental novel set in the Solomon Islands

30th March 2020

Under Solomon Skies by Berni Sorga-Millwood – environmental novel set in the Solomon Islands.

environmental novel set in the Solomon Islands

Under Solomon Skies is the story of two childhood friends, now adults – Jack and Toni – adrift in a small boat in the Solomon Islands. They have run out of petrol. It is narrated by Jack. Alternate chapters in the second part of the book describe their plight, and the efforts of their families and friends to locate and rescue them. It is both exciting and stressful. The families balance their ‘modern’ Christian views with the island traditions of spirit worship in their efforts to reach a happy conclusion. Old and modern beliefs live side by side. Meanwhile the men on the boat battle both the elements and their own fear. It is based on real events.

The first part of the book, though, describes how the boys first met at school, largely lost touch – and then how Jack’s life developed into his 20s before they again got together again at a family wedding. The book is a vehicle for Berni’s very strong environmental views. Jack’s first job was with a community friendly logging company on an island who managed the forest for future generations. His second, on another island, was with another logging company – but one that laid waste to the forest land it cleared. The contrast is very stark. Sadly, though, money talks (as it does for many) – Jack, after his initial doubts, earned far more with the second company and planned to set himself up for a business in the future. Other aspects of the environment are also brought into the story. The Islanders round up and slaughter dolphins without any thoughts as to conservation, small islands disappear under rising water, and ocean liners pollute the sea with rubbish. There are more examples.

The Solomon Islands are, frankly, a part of the world about which I knew not a lot. Reading Berni’s book encouraged me to find out more. They are a geographically diverse set of islands scattered over many hundreds of square kilometres. The language, customs – even the physical appearance of the inhabitants – differs enormously from island to island. The governance is loose and largely corrupt. They have also suffered in recent times (up to 2003) from violence – first, a guerrilla war with neighbouring Papua New Guinea, and then ethnic and political fighting within the islands themselves. Life has not been easy.

Under Solomon Skies is a well written and exciting book with a message. It is well worth reading.

Tony for the TripFiction team

Do read our interview with the author

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