The Sex Lives of Cannibals, a book by J. Maarten Troost, is not what the title would suggest. In fact, the book has nothing about sex or cannibals, but rather is a description of how a young man and his girl friend left the fast city life of the East Coast and moved to the remote South Pacific Tarawa Atoll. Those of us who lived through World War II will recall that the Tarawa Atoll is a series of small islands in the Gilberts. The major Japanese outposts were here. After the battle of Midway and the fall of Guadalcanal, the Japanese began to fortify the Gilberts. Heavy guns from Singapore were sent there and Rear Admiral Keiji Shibasaki bragged that a million men could not taker Tarawa in a hundred years because of the fortifications that were installed there. In fact, it took four days to capture it. However, 1500 U.S marines and 4800 Japanese died on Tarawa.
Troost’s girl friend had been hired by an agency to move there to attempt to improve island life. But, what they found was intense equator sun, primitive living conditions and an indifferent population to change in their culture or life style. What is most disturbing about this book is the description of the environmental disasters they discover as they travel through the Pacific to get to their destination. The effects of using some islands for atomic bomb testing, the impact of Western food and culture upon native cultures and the lack of concern of the people about the enviornmental contamination of Tarawa. Poverty, sickness and indifference seem to prevail there.
I found it interesting that after a couple of years they moved back to urban life in the U.S. and found that so unnerving they ended up moving to Fiji to work. Not a particularly well written book, but nevertheless interesting.