I found author Bryce Courtenay in 2011 and told you about his Australia Trilogy here. I've since read Four Fires, The Power of One and The Persimmon Tree. Four Fires was OK but I really enjoyed The Power of One and The Persimmon Tree. Fishing For Stars is a sequel to The Persimmon Tree. All of these books are expertly narrated by Humphrey Bower, one of my favorite narrators.
Here's what the publisher says about Fishing for Stars:
Nicholas Duncan is a semi-retired shipping magnate who resides in idyllic Beautiful Bay in Indonesia, where he is known as the old patriarch of the islands. He is grieving the loss of his beautiful Eurasian wife, Anna, and is suffering for the first time from disturbing flashbacks to WWII, the scene of their first meeting and early love. His other wartime lover is the striking Marg Hamilton, a powerful and influential political player in Australia who has remained close to Nick. Marg suspects Nick is suffering the onset of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and organises for a specialist to meet with him in Sydney. But when they meet, Tony Freedman stirs long-buried emotions in Nick and the two men don't hit it off.
Nick leaves in an explosion of anger and finds himself in hospital after being hit by a car. Tony visits and encourages Nick to write as a form of therapy - to write about Anna. So he sets about writing about the woman who has inspired him since his late teens, and in doing so draws us into the compelling tale of the life he has lived post war-hero days building a shipping empire, navigating international corruption, supporting his wife's third-world education crusade and loving the women who inspire him. Set in the exotic locale of the spice islands during the excitement of post-war prosperity and possibility, and driven by strong, colourful characters, this book is truly epic in scope. Is it possible for a man to love two women?
First off, Nick and Anna were never married. The book also spends a lot of time giving the background of what happened in The Persimmon Tree to set this story up. The information in the publisher's summary is about the first 1/4 of the book. The rest is the story of Anna and that's where the whole thing lost me.
The story is one cliche after another. It's as if someone told the author that he needed to deal with more modern issues in his books. I imagine that he Google "current issues", picked 10 of them and challenged himself to write a book including all of them. Anna has survived the war by mastering bondage in a forced prostitution situation. After the war she continues the "business" and, completely unbelievably, turns it into a big property. logging and oil/gas empire. Oh yeah, she does this all while being a heroin addict for decades. She's also absolutely perfectly beautiful and sexy well into her 50's and has this physical dysfunction. (I'm not mentioning it in the blog simply to avoid spam comments.....and I really got sick of hearing it in the book.) That, of course, is the avenue of introducing her nemesis, a bitter widowed navy spouse (she had to give up her exceptional career to marry him) turned rabid environmentalist and MP.
Nick, on the other hand, supposedly runs a big shipping business but it seems that he mostly just waits around for his women to call and visit him.
Can you tell that this book drove me absolutely bonkers? It just goes to show that not every book by a winning author is a winner. It reminds me of The Secret Live of Bees, one of my all-time favorite books. Sue Mon Kidd followed that with The Mermaid Chair that was just dreadful.