One Big Damn Puzzler, by John Harding

William Hardt, an American lawyer who suffers from OCD, is sent to an unnamed pacific island in the late '90s to prepare a legal case for compensation from the American Government for the injuries caused by landmines left by the US Army (I don't think the book explains why the mines were laid).

This is a pretty whoppingly big book - ~19 hours of audio, so I hesitated a bit when I borrowed it from the library. It was a random find which a quick amazon search suggested was worth reading. People talking about "laughing out loud" etc..

The title of the book comes from a translation being done of Hamlet by one of the village elders, and is part of the "To be or not to be" soliloquy which he's re-writing in the island's pidgin.

William has good intentions, but is opposed by Lucy, an ethnologist based on the island, who believes that any monetary compensation awarded to the islanders will be damaging for their customs and traditions. Needless to say, a relationship between William and Lucy is on the cards.

There was a fair amount of stuff about William's OCD - maybe this is an accurate description of what it's like to have OCD, I don't know. I didn't find it particularly interesting. There was also quite a bit about the customs of the islanders - including plenty of time spent on their habit of treating defecation as a social activity: one of the beaches is designated the "shitting beach", where everyone goes every morning.

Well, I got through it, but I didn't think it was particularly great. Certainly not laugh-out-loud: I think I chuckled once. And one chuckle in 19 hours doesn't qualify it as a laugh-out-loud read so far as I'm concerned.

One thing that bothered me was the language spoken by the islanders: they have stopped using their native language in favour of a pidgin English, which doesn't seem to progress beyond the pidgin level. The author does say that they switched to pidgin because it was "better" than their native tongue, but I'm not sure this ties in with my understanding of how pidgins are typically used. The children also speak pidgin: I'd assumed that if this happened, the pidgin would evolve into something more sophisticated, but that hasn't happened on the island either.

In the last part of the book, Lucy's fears are shown to have been well-founded, but in rather in-your-face, labour-the-point way.

Not really for me. It was OK but I wasn't disappointed to get to the (rather unsatisfying) end.

Completed : 06-August-2015 (audiobook)

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