Where's the ivory, me hearties?
I find it fascinating to read fiction that deals with real, current and controversial issues, and Ivory definitely fits into that category. Set off the coast of Mozambique and South Africa, it deals with piracy on the east coast of Africa as well as elephant culling in the Kruger National Park. Author Tony Park, dubbed as Australia's own Wilbur Smith, says that there are predictions that the increased western naval presence off the coast of Somalia will drive the problem of piracy south into the waters of Mozambique and South Africa. “This is what happens in my book, and the South African navy is dragged into a confrontation – not an unrealistic prospect these days,” he says. It is of interest that Tony conducts much research in Africa as he and his wife have travelled there every year since 1995. Tony works in Sydney as a freelance public affairs consultant, but he and Nicola spend three to five months at a time in southern Africa, mostly camping in national parks. And that is where Tony does much of his writing.
As part of his research for the book, Tony sailed on a cargo ship, gained access to a massive car carrier ship in Sydney harbour, and was given a private tour of one of the South African Navy's new frigates during a visit to Cape Town. He also talked to scientists and researchers who are grappling with a way to manage elephant numbers in game reserves such as the Kruger Park in order to focus on elephant culling. Ivory tells the story of a pirate, Alex Tremain, who dreams of re-opening his parents' five-star hotel on the Island of Dreams, off the coast of Mozambique. But in the meantime he uses the island as a base from which to run his piracy operations. His actions lead him to an encounter with Jane Humphries, a lawyer working for a shipping company, who also happens to be having an affair with her millionaire boss.
Jane's circumstances are shrouded in uncertainty as she grapples with her feelings for the men involved in her life, and as she learns that the boss she thought she knew isn't at all what he seemed to be. Alex, on the other hand, is a dangerous pirate, but perhaps there's more to him than that. Ivory is fast-paced, racing towards the end and certainly kept me turning the pages until late into the night. Alex and Jane, in particular, are portrayed as warm, real characters and the twists and turns towards the end of the book make for fascinating reading.
The love that Tony feels for Africa, and the life experience that he has in the area in which the book is based, is evident throughout the book. Tony says that it would be an understatement to say that he loves Africa. “It's more like an addiction.” He acknowledges the issues faced in Africa, but finds the national parks ideal locations to write his books and says that there's an endless source of story ideas in the continent's people and places. There's little doubt that we'll be reading more African adventures from Tony in the future, and I'll certainly be looking out for the next one.
Love in the age of drought
While reading Love in the Age of Drought by Fiona Higgins I was struck by the diversity in Australia, and realised that even Australians moving within this country can experience the very things that we do as migrants.
This book tells the wonderfully romantic story of how Fiona meets Stuart Higgins at a conference in Melbourne. He's a cotton farmer from south-east Queensland and she's a vegetarian career girl, who has many life experiences having done things including travelling by bicycle around Australia to raise money for a good cause. After some trials and tribulations, Fiona relocates from Manly, Sydney to Stuart's rural home where the nearest town is Jandowae, which has a population of 750. There she sees how Stuart has been coping with the devastating impact of the drought that grips the countryside.
Fiona has to deal with frogs in the toilet, red bellied black snakes slithering around their home, rats that take potatoes into the roof and being riddled with mosquito bites. She sums up the experience when she writes: “What was I thinking, coming out here at all? I'd voluntarily traded the lively buzz of coastal Sydney for the deserted, critter infested landscape of rural Australia. Just as well I was in Love, with a capital ‘L'.”