Bright and Distant Shores

Dominic Smith. Washington Square, $15 trade paper (480p) ISBN 978-1-439-19886-5
Smith's impressive third novel (after The Beautiful Miscellaneous) is an absorbing exploration of culture, tradition, and renewal through the high seas adventure of three very different men. In late 1890s Chicago, an insurance magnate contracts Owen Graves, a demolitions expert, for an expedition to secure artifacts and "a number of natives... for the purposes of exhibition and advertising." A stipulation in the contract states that the magnate's spoiled son, Jethro, will serve as the ship's naturalist, despite having no knowledge of the workings of the real world. On the journey, Jethro spoils the ship with autopsied animals and withdraws from the crew of ex-cons. But Owen, the captain, and the crew have vivid encounters with native Melanesian islanders, two of whom—Argus Nui and his sister Malini—are taken aboard. Argus's "scholar's English" and islander knowledge secures him employment as an assistant on deck, but once delivered to Chicago, he and his sister are made to perform a public parody of native life, making the divide between heritage and Western values very clear. Jethro becomes dangerously fixated on Malini, and Owen comes to her aid. Smith expertly combines well-drawn characters with a complex narrative that moves smoothly to the dawn of a new century. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/11/2011
Release date: 09/01/2011
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 480 pages - 978-1-4391-9888-9
Ebook - 512 pages - 978-1-74269-337-8
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