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By Dylan Thomas
New York: A Scarborough Book , Stein and Day, 1978
ISBN #0-8128-6012-8
126 pages

Comments by Bob Corbett
February 2013

While the form of this book is as a novel, it was actually a screen play that Dylan Thomas wrote from a Robert Louis Stevenson short story. As the story opens Wiltshire is arriving at the island of Falesa in the South Seas. Hes come to this small island as a trader, wishing to trade copra, made from coconut shells, for various goods not available on the island. Wilshire does not know the local language and, surprisingly, seems to not even know that 100% of his trade will be copra for his various goods. Nor do we know why he has come to this tiny island to begin with.

The ship is met by Case, the other trader on the island, who has been there for a long time and controls all trade. Case, of course, speaks the native language fluently. Wiltshire is replacing a former trader on the island who simply didnt make it.

Under Cases guidance in what I found to be a quite surprising first day, Wiltshire is married to the most beautiful woman on the island, and sets up in his trading post.

Things, however, do not go well and the natives will not trade with Wiltshire. Finally a local Protestant missionary comes to the island and explains to Wilshire that Case has let it be known that a curse in on Wilshire because of his wife, Uma. Its all a ploy to keep Wiltshire from becoming a business rival.

The story is a classic struggle of good and evil, with evil being quite sophisticated as evil and good just as nave about the world as evil is wise. Nonetheless, goodness wins out in the end.

Despite the rather broad strokes of good versus evil, and the blatant anti-colonialist diatribe, Thomas re-writes the story quite well. He emphasizes the evil of Case and made this reader feel the depths of his depravity and deceptiveness. On the other hand, I did find Wiltshire to be just too nave to really believe. When the final confrontation of good and evil comes it is swift, brutal, hair-raising and final.

The novel (or screen script) is a quick and interesting read, though there were some nagging questions left in the mind of this reader.

Bob Corbett


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Bob Corbett