Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost

The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial PacificThe Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific by J. Maarten Troost
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Around the World: 17 of 52 (Tarawa, Kiribati, South Pacific)

I think it is important to separate the subject matter of a book from the book itself. Kiribati? Fascinating. The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific? Not good. The research was interesting. The factoids were interesting. But the author comes across as a complete tool. I would have been far more interested in hearing about his girlfriend's experience in the Republic of Kiribati, since she was actually working with people and doing important work, unlike J. Maarten, who did laundry! And canned food hunting!

It isn't a funny book, although I keep seeing reviews that say it is. The situation the author and his girlfriend find themselves in is incredibly uncomfortable and rather unhygienic - they are lucky to have survived it, quite honestly. People shit where they eat, literally, in fact his girlfriend is being sent there in order to do sanitation education. It is a greater sense of isolation than simply being out of their comfort zone. They turn into survivalists just like everyone else living on a tiny island with nothing to make a living off of. Funny? Not really. Definitely not "rip-roaring" as the book jacket claims. The author is a drifter and ultimately doesn't contribute much to the book. (And he wrote it!)

In case you wonder at the title, there really weren't any cannibals here, nor was there any sex.  The closest anecdote I remember is how jealous girlfriends would bite the noses off of their husbands/boyfriends, leading to facial deformation that outsiders originally misinterpreted as being from malnutrition.  

Even though I have it on my to-read shelf, I'm not sure I'll be bothering with Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu. I love good travel writing, and have already experienced some in my Around the World challenge.  What travel writing have you liked best?


  1. This wasn't my favorite book either.

  2. This is how I felt about Island of Wings - fascinating topic but not a great book. It's a shame this one let you down too.


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