The other side of paradise

Submitted by admin on 2012/12/03 11:28:23 AM
Beach Read A must read if your heading to Phuket to get some winter warmth this year, or to any tropical island for that matter, is Catching the Sun by Tony Parsons. Although far from a ground breaking idea, this novel is never-the-less an empathetic and well crafted account of one man's attempt to follow his dreams and escape the cruel London world he lives in, when his attempts to stop a burglary go sour and he is accused himself of a crime. In a genuine effort to start a new life in paradise with his family, Tom Finn takes a job with a shady property firm on Phuket, and settling into the stunning area around Nai Yang beach, his family quickly falls in love with the island, the country, its people — and its animals. The author obviously shares his lead character's affection for the Land of Smiles, judging by his deft descriptions and lyrical appreciation of the country's famed natural beauty. His treatment of the personalities that surround the story make it all the more appealing, and the Thai folk often seem at odds with the relentless holiday hoards they greet and service. Unfortunately for Tom, things don't turn out quite as planned and he soon finds himself caught up in all sorts of dark dealings that see him thrown into jail and worse. Nature then strikes a double blow and things go from bad to awful for this lost and beleaguered soul as he tries in vain to do what's right for him and his nearest and dearest. Although the novel is set at the time of the Asian tsunami, Parsons avoids focusing on the tragedy and instead brings both the lead and secondary characters to life through a touching series of sub-plots that includes the characters saving an ill treated gibbon,helping re-construct a restaurant and helping out a fellow Brit whose version of island life is even more desperate than theirs. The strength of the family bond is central to this novel, which despite its darker moments ultimately focuses on the importance of being there for the people you love through thick and thin. In many ways the book is also reminder that the paradise we all look for is generally to be found in our own heads and hearts, and in this case a commitment to that belief is what saves Tom and his family's dream from turning into an enduring nightmare. Although you will hopefully never actually experience the trials and tribulations faced by the sorry characters in Catching the Sun, it is an accomplished prose with a suitable bright ending that will leave you feeling warm and content. The best fiction is often most appreciated in context, and in this case as a holiday read, the backdrop to the story will literally come to life every time you look up from the page.       by