Climbing the Coconut Tree

Written by S C Karakaltsas
Review by Adam Hussey

A coming of age drama set against a backdrop of exotic island life, colonial rule, industrial phosphate mining, a fear of communism and murder. The story, inspired by true events, explores a lesser known part of Australia’s post war history.

Set in 1948 and 1949 it follows eighteen-year-old Bluey Guthrie as he leaves home for the first time and moves from outback Australia to take up the role of mining company surveyor on Ocean Island. The trials and tribulations of moving away from home, starting a new job and making friends are explored through the workings and social side of colonial life. As the story unfolds we meet a variety of different European, native, and imported characters. The relationships and interplay deteriorates as racial tension turns into riots, increased crime and violence. The book culminates in a fictional account of two real life murders which took place.

We finally learn at the end of the book that the writer had a family connection to the story and events which occurred.

The novel was an enjoyable summer read, well written and researched. The descriptive language employed by the writer easily transports you into the Pacific colonial world of the story’s protagonists and puts you, the reader, in amongst the action.