Book Review: The Shark God, in the South Pacific

Melanesia is a part of the world that not many people get the opportunity to travel to, tucked away in the south-western corner of the Pacific Ocean near Australia – it’s a region including Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. From his childhood, author Charles Montgomery had exotic visions of Melanesia gained from records of his great-grandfather’s travels there a century earlier as a missionary, and as an adult, Montgomery decides he must find out more about the region.

514zvms4hcl_sl500_aa240_His research and travels have turned into the compelling travel narrative The Shark God: Encounters With Ghosts and Ancestors in the South Pacific, a tale blending historical fact with Montgomery’s own experiences, and dipping back into the memoir his great-grandfather Henry Montgomery wrote, The Light of Melanesia, about his experiences as a bishop trying to “save the heathens”.

The younger Montgomery’s travels take him from libraries in Britain to Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, uncovering local customs and trying to trace the route of his great-grandfather’s journey and meet the descendants of those the bishop dealt with. Being rich in historical and cultural facts, The Shark God is occasionally heavy going, but does provide enough gems of insight into the Melanesian peoples to make it well worth reading.