Island to Oneself

Neale, Tom. An Island to Oneself. Woodbridge, Connecticut: Ox Bow Press, 1966.

Reason read: In January I read The Book of Puka-Puka by Dan Frisbie. Pearl recommended reading Tom Neale after, so I did.

I didn’t understand what would make a person pick up and leave all aspects of civilization until I read An Island to Oneself. Even Frisbie’s account in The Book of Puka-Puka didn’t answer the question because at least Frisbie lived and married among the natives. There were people to talk to. On the atoll of Suvarov in the South Pacific Tom Neale had (on his first visit 1952 – 1954) two cats, chickens & a wild duck he tamed for companionship. The occasional freighter would deter from its shipping lane, but those visits were few and far between. And yet, Neale thrived in that environment. Survival was his challenge and he prided himself on his ingenuity, creativeness and sheer willpower to make his self imposed solitary confinement comfortable. He spent his days keeping his abode spotless, working the land for farming, and fishing (the pig slaughter was a little difficult to read). On his second journey to Suvarov (he left the first time due to illness), Neale came back a smarter man. He built a better cook stove, brought more appropriate supplies and was better prepared for the wild weather that could batter his island from time to time. This time he stayed from 1960 to 1963. It wasn’t that Neale didn’t like people. He enjoyed the “tourists” who ended up visiting him. It was just that he wanted to do his own thing. Being alone wasn’t lonely.

Best quote I liked, “Mine was a simple existence” (p 24). No kidding!

AS an aside, I just learned Neale went back a third time and this time stayed ten years. Amazing.

Author fact: Tom Neale didn’t mind being naked. An Island to Oneself has 17 pictures with an almost naked Neale.

Book trivia: As mentioned before, there are great black and white photos, mostly of Neale, included.

Nancy said: Nancy called Island to Oneself a “classic account” (p 128).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Islands, Desert and Otherwise” (p 128)

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