Marie of Gizo is a short novella steeped in colonial history that loosely follows in the tradition of James Clavell’s Asian Saga novels. Missionaries, colonial officials, traders, Australians on the run and exotic island women mingle in the jungles and on the beaches of the last unspoiled Pacific paradise while facing the threat of the political and economic change which the outside world wants to force on them.
The story focuses on a rag-tag bunch of ex-pats who have washed up post- Second World War on the British Solomon Islands – one of the last unspoiled Pacific paradises, facing an uncertain future as self-government is achieved. In a trope typical of the colonial genre, the title character Marie is a young local beauty married to an older British captain who enjoys the ‘exotic island women’ while refusing to legitimise the relationship ‘back home’ in an unforgivingly xenophobic society. This tension between colonised and colonisers plays out across the narrative and sets the scene for the final denouement. A warning to those unfamiliar with this genre: some of the characterisation may make for uncomfortable reading and female characters are deeply sexualised. But at 124 pages of easy to read and well-spaced text, this tale of ‘missionaries, colonial officials, traders and Australians on the run’, is fast-paced and edgy, with a sense of tight foreboding that permeates.