Papua New Guinea, 1973. Set, with permission, in a real school where I taught. The characters and story are fictitious.
Contains beautiful accurate descriptions, vivid characters and an intricate plot. Contains a small inspirational thread. Ali teaches at Barrington Place, an immaculate, sunlit English style school set amid the exotic, sometimes sinister, steamy jungle on New Ireland (PNG).
She has many friends among the widely varied staff of expats and local people. She loves the place and most of the staff. She is keen on loveable larrikin Dave but the arrival of glamorous, vivacious Tessa threatens to upstage Ali in Dave’s eyes.
The headmistress is the very English Mrs Barrington, who sets high standards for pupils and teachers alike, leading to ‘incidents’ with Dave as the culprit. Unknown to Dave, Tessa has a pact with her Brisbane boyfriend, Vietnam vet Jon. He wants to marry her but she is fazed by his PTSD after Vietnam but will drop everything and go to him if he really needs her. He is a sensitive musician.
In the evenings, the expat teachers have meals together, huddling cosily around the hurricane lantern, enjoying its flickering light. Here they enjoy sharing secrets and witty banter. To Ali’s dismay, Tessa dares Dave to go on a very dangerous trek to the south of New Ireland. He and Craig go – and do not return. What has become of them?
After several days, Craig’s body is found, drowned - but is Dave dead too? The girls both mourn the boys. Tessa becomes quite neurotic, blaming herself and missing Dave. Roger has developed a phobia about the jungle as a result of his friend’s traumatic death. Ali advises him to see a counsellor in Kavieng – and as he recovers, in the chemist there he meets his wife-to-be.
PNG is on the cusp of independence and there is much unrest, so Ali and Tessa return to Brisbane at the end of the year. It is the end of 1973 and soon the 1974 flood begins. Brisbane is in crisis. Jon continues to love Tessa and wants to marry her but she remains too daunted by his post-war stress disorder.
She and Ali are both still in love with Dave but believe him dead. Ali tries to form a new relationship but this fails too and she is feeling flat. She is everyone’s friend and nobody’s fiancée. Then Dave – who has been recovering from almost drowning along with Craig – returns to Brisbane and rings Tessa. He is coming to see her and Ali will be there too. So will Jon. How will they sort out this mixture of attractions? Jon, acutely distressed, rings Tessa with their secret signal and she runs to him. Soon after, they marry.
Dave and Ali become good friends. He sees the folly of his attraction to Tessa and comes to love Ali. They get together at last...
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeanette Grant-Thomson is a Brisbane author who has been writing and having work published since her childhood. She has written poems, short stories, articles, film scripts, biographies, novels and other pieces. she has a Bachelor of Arts Degree from UQ and is an Associate of the Trinity College of London.