Excerpt from Tales from the Torrid Zone by Alexander Frater, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Tales from the Torrid Zone

Travels in the Deep Tropics

by Alexander Frater

Tales from the Torrid Zone by Alexander Frater X
Tales from the Torrid Zone by Alexander Frater
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2007, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2008, 400 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

A Place Called Pandemonium

Some years ago I returned to my birthplace and found it had become a luxury holiday resort. Described in the brochures as “Iririki, Island of Elegance” and lying snugly in Port Vila’s blue harbour, its forty-four acres were crowned with flowering trees and contoured like a tall polychromic hat; you could walk the shadowy path around its brim in twenty minutes. It was a comfortable spot; when the mainland sweltered, Iririki usually got sea breezes and cooling showers. Once it had contained just two houses: our mission bungalow and—set in parklike grounds with a flagpole flying a bedspread-sized Union Jack—the palatial residence of the British Resident Commissioner. Now seventy-two air-conditioned accommodation units were strung across its northern end.

By the resident’s jetty a signpost read “Old Hospital Ruins.” Directed back half a century, I saw myself as the guests drifting over on parasails might see me: an ageing, perspiring, overweight man hurrying towards a jungly acre that looked like an abandoned archaeological site. Somewhere in there, among the creeper-strewn hillocks and slabs of mossy concrete, my father had delivered me with forceps; now I expected, if not a thunderclap, at least an acknowledgement, some audible sign.

That, however, only came at the check-in desk when a porter cried, “Welcome to the Champagne Resort!” and handed me a complimentary fruit punch. Drinking it, I realized the vaulted reception area, built from local hardwoods, stood on the site of our vegetable garden. Then, having spelled my name for the clerk, I told her about my links with the island. She went “Uh-huh,” and asked for my credit card. Handing me a key she said, “Enjoy your stay, Mr Fraser.” My unit overlooked a tiny, fan-shaped beach where I had learned to swim; two topless women lay sunning themselves on the spot where I once kept my canoe. Later, eating a Big Riki burger at the poolside restaurant, I was relieved to find the restaurant’s location held no associations at all.

My son turned up and said, “How do you feel? Have the squatters moved in?”

I felt pretty good, actually—indeed, oddly gratified that so many people seemed to be getting pleasure from the place. “What do you think?”

“It was probably nicer before.”

But John detested resorts of any description. He had arrived a couple of weeks earlier, a Royal London Hospital medical student out here to do his elective at his grandfather’s old hospital—today named Vila Base and re-established over on the mainland. Looking tired and preoccupied, he said a nine-year-old girl from Tanna had been admitted that morning with cerebral malaria. “Her parents tried a custom doctor, that didn’t work, so they brought her in: Western medicine, last resort, it happens all the time. A few hours earlier and we might have saved her.”

I watched my son pondering one of the diseases which my father, for much of his life, had fought so obsessively. That oddly jolting moment was interrupted by the arrival of Dr Makau Kalsakau, escorted to our table like a visiting head of state. Three waiters tussled to pull out his chair, a portly Australian manager hovered anxiously. Dr Makau, trained by my father and perhaps our oldest family friend, had promised us an Iririki island tour. A handsome, black-skinned pensioner with amused eyes and a wispy Assyrian beard, he held John’s hand and said, “You look like your grandaddy, there is a definite similarity. He was my teacher. And now you are working in our hospital! About this there is, uh, a kind of . . . what is the word?”

I had disappointed him by not going to medical school, but words were my business and now I was oddly eager for his approval. “Symmetry.”

Excerpted from Tales from the Torrid Zone by Alexander Frater Copyright © 2007 by Alexander Frater. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  The Tropics

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Office of Historical Corrections
    The Office of Historical Corrections
    by Danielle Evans
    In The Office of Historical Corrections, the second story collection from Danielle Evans, readers ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Dutch House
    by Ann Patchett

    The Dutch House is my introduction to Ann Patchett, which, after reading it, surprises me. I had ...

  • Book Jacket: Nights When Nothing Happened
    Nights When Nothing Happened
    by Simon Han
    A quiet atmosphere of dread permeates Simon Han's subdued debut novel Nights When Nothing Happened. ...
  • Book Jacket: Take It Back
    Take It Back
    by Kia Abdullah
    In Kia Abdullah's novel Take It Back, sexual violence advisor Zara Kaleel becomes involved in a case...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Mystery of Mrs. Christie
    by Marie Benedict

    The real-life disappearance of Agatha Christie is perhaps her greatest mystery of all.

    Reader Reviews
  • Book Jacket

    The Prophets
    by Robert Jones Jr.

    A stunning debut novel about the forbidden union between two enslaved young men on a Deep South plantation.

    Reader Reviews
Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
Waiting for the Night Song
by Julie Carrick Dalton
A startling and timely debut about friendships forged in childhood and ruptured by the high price of secrets.
Win This Book!
Win The House on Vesper Sands

The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O'Donnell

Introducing a detective duo for the ages who unlock the secrets of a startling Victorian mystery.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

T T T Light F

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.