book review: The Sex Lives of Cannibals, by J. Maarten Troost

Some of you have read funny stories that I post on this blog while traveling in Africa.  If I made those stories into a book (and if I were a better writer), they might be like this book.  Maybe I’ll stick to the blog.  My thoughts:

alternate title: funny stories from life as an ex-pat on a tiny Pacific island

Having finished graduate studies in International Relations, Troost (he’s Dutch) finds himself unclear on the next career step, so he accompanies his girlfriend who takes a job as an aid worker in Kiribati (pronounced Kiribas), where he tries to write a novel and has funny experiences.

Troost is funny, sarcastic, and self-deprecating. I enjoyed much of the book. If I were reading the stories periodically (e.g., on a blog or in an occasional email), I would have found it even more funny, but in rapid sequence the style got tiresome (especially in the middle of the book). At times the humor felt unpleasantly smug (although I give him credit for being as deprecating to himself as to others).

He also sheds some light on a part of the world that I know very little about: life on a tiny atoll in the middle of the Pacific? It’s a whole different world, one very different from other poor countries. When he includes history, he succeeds in making it entertaining. Ultimately, though, most of the book felt like a trifle: I enjoyed it on net but considered stopping halfway and am not rushing out to read his two more recent books (about life in Vanuatu and travels in China). Sort of like he says himself: “I like my entertainment not too serious, not too stupid, sort of like this book” (p84).

I listened to the unabridged audiobook narrated by Simon Vance (British accent) and published by Blackstone Audio (7 CDs). The narration was good.

[Note on content: This book is not about anyone’s sex life, has very little sexual content, very little violence, but a significant amount of strong language.]

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