Fiction. A bestseller in New Zealand and winner of the prestigious Commonwealth Prize, Sia Figiel's debut marks the first time a novel by a Samoan woman has been published in the United States. Figiel uses the traditional Samoan storytelling form of su'ifefiloi to talk back to Western anthropological studies on Samoan women and culture. Told in a series of linked episodes, this powerful and highly original narrative follows thirteen-year-old Alofa Filiga as she navigates the mores and restrictions of her village and comes to terms with her own search for identity. A story of Samoan PUBERTY BLUES, in which Gauguin is dead but Elvis lives on -- Vogue Australia. A storytelling triumph -- Elle Australia.
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A lively debut portrays a Samoan girls coming of age through a series of linked stories, awarded the Commonwealth Prize for Best Novel (Southeast Asia/South Pacific region). Adolescence is a rich period for writers everywhere, but Samoa has been famous for little else since Margaret Mead published her famous 1928 study of it (Coming of Age in Samoa). Figiels approach is more personal than Meads, of course, and she manages to create a far clearer portrait of Samoan customs and society from the inside out. She adopts a light, impressionistic tone that nicely conveys the simultaneous confusion and excitement felt by 13-year-old Alofa as she makes her first attempts to look at her world as an adult. Many of the episodes, such as Buzzing . . . Everywhere (a prank played on a prissy classmate goes too far and lands the girl in trouble), emphasize the inexplicable tensions between guilt and cruelty felt by girls of Alofas age, while others (In the Wind, In the Dark) simply show the navet of children who are still utterly dependent on their families. Much of the overall tale is told in a sort of Anglo-Samoan patois, and though the usual teenage loves and crushes that are part of adolescence the world over make up a great part of the narrative, even these sections are tinged with a regional color (as in Poem of the Sea & Breaking Baby Promises) that tends to render the whole here more evocative of place rather than people. Figiels focus is soft and her prose rather elliptical, but even so she does provide a nice climax in which tragedy brings Alofa to an awareness that innocence is a fragile and unreliable quality to carry into the adult world. A bit too heavy on atmosphere, but finely detailed and delicately constructed: a welcome surprise from an unexpected quarter of the world. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.Review:
"A story of Samoan PUBERTY BLUES, in which Gauguin is dead but Elvis lives on" -- Vogue Australia
"A storytelling triumph" -- Elle Australia
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