Arts & Culture

Book Review: Frangipani by Celestine Hitiura Vaite

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Frangipani was an Australian best seller in 2004 and was also chosen for Australia’s 2009 Reader’s Digest Select Editions. It is the second novel of the trilogy written by Celestine Hitiura Vaite revolving around the character Materena Mahi. The first book in the series is Breadfruit while the third is Tiare. Frangipani is a type of fruit tree.

Materena Mahi is a Tahitian woman residing in her homeland, Tahiti, which is the French Polynesia. The book begins with Materena arguing with her husband to let her collect his pay cheque. Her husband is reluctant to let her do that as it would make him the butt of jokes amongst his colleagues. To win the argument, she uses her promiscuity, but to no avail. Later, when she musters up the courage to pick her husband Pito’s pay cheque, he walks out on her, leaving her pregnant with their second child. A month later, they reconcile not only out of love but as a result of she rescuing her husband from a duel.

The story progresses with Materena getting a job as a ‘professional cleaner’ at a French lady’s house by writing the first professional letter in her life, giving birth to her daughter, and then another son. Her daughter, Leilani, is the absolute opposite of what a girl is supposed to be in the traditional Tahiti tribe. She is quick-witted, intelligent, smart, and inquisitive. Materena encourages her daughter to be what she wants but faces the consequences as she is unable to control her.

The story is beautifully woven around the mother-daughter duo along with all siblings, aunts, families, and distant relatives highlighting the Tahitian people’s entwined relations and how everybody is a relative. The ending warms your heart and leaves you with a story to narrate.

It is a must for people wishing to learn about Tahitian culture first-hand and also for those looking for a light-hearted story away from the hullabaloo of stressful college life.


Feature Image Credits: Goodreads

Prachi Mehra
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