Things Bright and Beautiful () by

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Review by Debra Found

2.0 Stars2.0 Stars (2 from a possible 5)

The Story Spiralled Out of Control

Bea Hanlon and her new husband, Max, head off to be missionaries in the New Hebridies. This is the 1950s and the world is not as connected as it is now. The village is isolated, travel is on foot and the only help several days away. The contact with their home church is spasmodic and letters take several months to arrive - if at all!

I felt this book started well. The young couple were finding their feet in this land which was very alien to them. Max is a bit of an idealist and life is not quite as he imagined it. His character lacked strength and he gets caught up with events. Bea settles in better and gets to know the women and children of the village & surrounding areas. She even makes a friend. Events, however, spiral out of control and so did my enjoyment of the book. Much of it stagnates in the middle and then the whole story really became quite absurd. Max's mind disintegrates and he becomes caught up in the island's ancient traditions to an extreme extent.

What started as an interesting book concerning their lives as missionaries took a very unpleasant turn and, although I completed the book, I didn't feel as if I wanted to. Max commits murder and shows little remorse and Bea is happy to support him. Although flashbacks into their troubled upbringings do explain this to some extent I struggled to come to terms with the following story. There are sessions of casting out demons, murder, starvation and cruelty. Although some of these possibly connect with the traditions of the islands (that is certainly suggested in the book) I felt that the author was denigrating these traditions. There were no redeeming features and I felt that there was a lack of reality concerning the people on these islands. I do wonder if the author did full enough research into the religion and traditions of these islands at the time or just twisted what little she knew to suit her book? There seemed to be little balance.

I didn't like the ending at all. The characters of Max and Bea in the beginning of the book are totally unrecognisable by the end. There are so many loose ends and things that I failed to understand. I just couldn't connect the start of this book with the ending.

I received a free copy of this book via Netgalley

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