I don't normally go in for chick-lit - nevermind travel books. But the funky appealing home spun cover somehow got me intrigued enough to click on the 1 Click button. Is that a Kindle cover I spy in the background?
Within 30 seconds it was carried over the wireless - no coconuts involved - onto my Kindle. I still can't get over this dangerously addictive feature of the Kindle. If you are jonesing for a new read and can't wait for the post - there is nothing to beat it.
20 minutes later I was transported to a few tiny specs in the South Pacific - the Solomon Islands.
Nicola's rich attention to dialogue, character, period and place mirrors the love and affection of Armistead Maupin's early Tales in the City books. And it's populated by an equally wide range of strangely wonderful but not always likeable characters too: there's Henderson - the country boy who wants to taste all that big city life in the Solomon Islands can offer; Suzy - the London city girl who's run away to escape a cheating boyfriend; the MP - a local politician who treats his seemingly inexhaustable supply of government jeeps nearly as badly as his wife; Stella - his young spouse looking for a way out and Anna - the local wise woman with a slightly shaky past.
A sly gentle humour infuses the book in a way I haven't experienced since reading the Ladies Detective Agency. It has the potential to do for the Solomon Islands what Alexander McCall's series did for Botswana: make you fall in love with - and get under the skin of - a country, its culture and its people without really knowing it. It's not a rose tinted view though - the author's obvious deep affection for Solomons doesn't stop her characters looking at it with more critical eyes from time to time. And that lends the book a feeling of real authenticity.
Beware though - this is not a book to read while hungry. The descriptions of local cuisine are positively Pavlovian - practically every page will have you looking fondly out at your garden's barbeque (or desperately wishing you had one).