What to Read: The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific

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July 07, 2017
What to Read
Mark Fancourt

What's On the Bookshelf 
Over the years, we’ve had numerous conversations with industry leaders and often one of the topics that we discuss is the latest book read. We thought it would be fun to share some of these booklover conversations with our readers. Here are what our industry leaders are reading.

The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific 
by J. Maarten Troost
[Review by Mark Fancourt, Chief Operating Officer, Cenium AS]

Having spent the last 20 years traveling to all corners of the planet for both business and pleasure, travel writing has always been a genre that I have enjoyed, and often in relation to the places that I am heading or have spent time. Earlier in my career I spent time in the Pacific, and as an Australian, there was always a natural draw to this part of the world. Enter “The Sex Lives of Cannibals” by J. Maarten Troost.
Troost by self description is a traveler, having spent considerable time in many second and third-world locations, and even in places such as Prague coming out of the Cold War.
Whilst the title is provocative and a reference to the history of the peoples of Kiribati, the book is a romp of a tale from the time he spent in the island nation of Kiribati on the Tarawa Atoll, with his partner Sylvia in tow, who was working on an NGO mission. They were quite literally in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
As a result, Troost found himself largely at a loose end in what is one of the most remote places on the planet. Over a two-year period, the book details the adventures, fixes, observations, challenges and near-death experiences of spending time in a third-world destination. The story is delivered in good humor and provides a thoughtful insight into a life far removed from what most of the Hospitality Upgrade readers are experiencing!
For me, beyond the chuckle at many of the situations Troost finds/gets himself into, the book provides a view into a part of the world that we hear very little of and a reflection of the lives and livelihoods of many Pacific Island nations, as well as the plights they face today. Also, it provides a voyeuristic look at Western behavior when the trappings of the West are removed.
Troost went on to write a number of follow-up travel yarns on his time in Vanuata and Fiji, as well as China (“Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu,” “Headhunters on My Doorstep: A True Treasure Island Ghost Story” and “Lost on Planet China: One Man's Attempt to Understand the World's Most Mystifying Nation”). They are all great reads, but definitely start here to appreciate his perspective.

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