(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The external action of Beachmasters covers a few weeks—before, during, and after a short-lived native rebellion on Kristi, a remote South Pacific island. Although the name of the island differs, the novel is based on an actual South Pacific island rebellion that the controlling French and British powers quickly squelched. Shortly after the uprising, both in the novel and in reality, the island did gain its independence from colonial authority but was forced to join a federation of islands, thus losing its bid to become an independent nation. In addition to the use of historical events, Beachmasters also portrays the actual leader of the rebellion but uses the fictional name Tommy Narota.

The novel opens with a prologue in poetic prose introducing the setting, the major characters, and the events to be told. This short but complex evocation also explains that the story will be narrated in three tongues: English, French, and Seaspeak (the native islanders’ patois comprising their own language, English, and French). It soon becomes obvious that here is no ordinary novel, no surface story of adventure and intrigue. The prologue ends with the words: “It is time to storian,” using the Seaspeak word for “tell.”

Beachmasters does not fall short relating the story of the rebellion. It traces the leader’s personal history and development, his gathering of a ragged army and smuggled arms, and his naive involvement...

(The entire section is 476 words.)