Monday, December 17, 2007

REVIEW: Frangipani, by Celestine Vaite

Frangipani, by Celestine Vaite. Published 2006 by Back Bay Books.
On the Seventh Day of Christmas I started to get really tired of the cold and snow and ice, and remembered that Celestine Vaite's novels set in Tahiti are a great way to get a little bit of summer any time. Frangipani is a fun, frothy "hammock book" about a lively, scrappy woman and her rebellious teenage daughter.

Vaite was the first Tahitian author to win the Prix Littéraire des Etudiants, for the first book in the Materena Mahi series, Breadfruit, and Frangipani is an entertaining second entry. It continues the story of Materena and her family- her husband Pito and her children, but especially her teenage daughter Leilani. In the first book, Materena and Pito, already live-in partners and parents of three children, get married, almost despite each other. In the follow-up, the family dramas continue, and daughter Leilani, a smart girl distracted by a boyfriend, keeps Materena on her toes. A cleaning woman, Materena wants better for her daughter but Leilani may have other ideas.

I really enjoyed Materena's friendly, casual tone, the strong sense of voice and place created by Vaite, and the details of life in Tahiti- the Chinese store, grabbing truck rides from place to place and the importance of family and culture and traditions. Vaite grew up in Tahiti and now lives in Australia but she visits several times a year and stays in close touch with her family and it shows in the detail and the genuine love and affection which she obviously has for her country and its people.

Sweet and charming, Frangipani will take away the winter blahs even if you read it curled up on the couch under a blanket rather than lazing in a hammock on a summer's day. Frangipani is second in a three-volume series about Materena Mahi and her family; the final book is called Tiare in Bloom and just came out last year. They're all terrific fun. 

Rating: BUY

Click on the picture to buy from your local Booksense-affiliated independent bookseller. I'm an IndieBound affiliate and receive a small commission on sales.

I received this book for review.

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