Getting Stoned with Savages

by J. Marten Troost

J. Marten Troost’s Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu is an anecdotal (and frequently hilarious) account of the year he spent with his wife Sylvia living on the South Pacific islands of his book’s title.  This is the first of his books that I’ve read, and I found Troost to be delightful company.  He’s eminently curious, open to new experiences without being foolhardy (most of the time, anyway), and entirely without pretension.  Whenever I read the sort of armchair travel book in which first-world authors spend time in third-world locales, I am always on the lookout for any signs of looking down on, or making fun of, the native populations. Troost is entirely respectful (even when he’s describing how corrupt the government is), saving his harshest criticisms for his own fears, inadequacies, and dumb decisions — all of which just made him seem more human to me.  Whether it’s traversing (or trying to) the mud-slick, unpaved roads of the islands; landslides; encountering active volcanoes; giant centipedes seemingly bent on household domination; musing on the pros and cons of cannibalism (while visiting a village in which the last incidence of this practice took place within living memory); surviving Cyclone Paula; or trying out kava, Vanuatu’s intoxicating drink of choice, Troost’s writing is lively and entertaining.  When Sylvia gets pregnant, the couple moves to Suva, on the advice of the obstetrician on Vanuatu, so that they could have access to more up-to-date medical care.  Troost calls the bustling metropolis of Suva, the capital of Fiji, “the Midtown of the South Pacific,” a description that somewhat unaccountably brought the city alive for me.  When I finished this book, I was sorely tempted to spend my next vacation in Vanuatu and Fiji, but reason belatedly kicked in, and I realized that I would probably need to bring Troost along as well, in order to guarantee myself a good time.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Getting Stoned with Savages

  1. Oooh–J. Maarten Troost! Love him. I actually preferred his first book, The Sex Lives of Cannibals, to this one, but who knows? Maybe you just love the first Troost you read the most. Glad you liked it!

    • Nancy

      You know, I suspect that your theory about preferring the first book you read by Troost is right. That’s certainly how I felt.

  2. Nancy

    It’s so nice to hear from someone who’s actually been to a place that I’ve read about. Thanks for sharing that anecdote.

  3. Toni Ciardullo

    Hi Nancy, I have followed your recommendations with almost perfect results–can’t see that you have reviewed THE LITTLE BOOK by Selden Edwards. I am in the midst of it and can’t help being delighted and over the moon with it. I’m not sure if it can sustain the wonderfulness. I’m interested in what you think.

    • Nancy

      Hi Toni – I think I was in the wrong mood when I tried The Little Book – it just didn’t work for me. I’ll have to retry it on your recommendation (unless the author doesn’t sustain the pleasure for you, in which case, please let me know!) Best, Nancy

  4. I read Getting Stoned with Savages on my way over to Vanuatu this past fall and found it quite informative, and for the most part, accurate. They’re almost done paving the road around the island though! We even saw one of those giant centipedes, and I helpfully told my roommate all about Troost’s experience, which primed us both for completely freaking out about the rest of the insects in our apartment. Supposedly there are no dangerous insects on the island though, so who knows.

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