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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars unusual spellbinder
Dea Birkett's adventures and sensitive approach to being a guest on Pitcairn were fascinating to read. I found it hard to put her book down, and her courage is admirable. Makes one want to read more exciting personal accounts of faraway places....
Published on March 28 2000

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Everybody Wants to Go to Pitcairn
I wonder if it's possible to learn about Pitcairn Island and not want to go there. During hectic days when I feel overwhelmed and unappreciated by the endless rat race striving that makes up much of my life, my thoughts turn to the joys and happiness of casting it all away and living on an island far away, a place like Pitcairn. Birkett took such feelings to their logical...
Published on May 1 2001 by Sheldon S. Kohn


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Everybody Wants to Go to Pitcairn, May 1 2001
This review is from: Serpent in Paradise (Paperback)
I wonder if it's possible to learn about Pitcairn Island and not want to go there. During hectic days when I feel overwhelmed and unappreciated by the endless rat race striving that makes up much of my life, my thoughts turn to the joys and happiness of casting it all away and living on an island far away, a place like Pitcairn. Birkett took such feelings to their logical end by arranging to live on Pitcairn. This book describes her time on the island.
As travel writing goes, Birkett's text is interesting. For the community of around 40 people, life on Pitcairn is controlled by the sea and by the smallness of the island. Birkett's text offers a view of a life removed, indeed cutoff, from much of what we consider normal, natural, and expected. The Pitcairn Islanders live in a state of being self-sufficient and at the same time dependent upon the whims of passing ships. In these days when technology seems to draw many of us closer together and to make the world smaller, Pitcairn seems more isolated. There used to be many more ships passing the island in the days before airplanes were in widespread use for Pacific routes.
The book is also a study of the difficulties an outsider faces in becoming part of such a community. Birkett reports that she often found herself at a loss to understand the true ins and out of the community. On Pitcairn, as in so many other places, the community has its own code, its own flow, understandable to insiders and baffling to outsiders. In a sense, it's not different from any other community in the world. What makes it different is that Pitcairn is the stuff of legend and the focus of fantasy.
Birkett's book is the story of the unfortunate intrusion of reality in the search for Paradise. There is a long tradition of such writing, and the common theme is that "utopia" is, as the derivation of the word itself suggests, "no place." During Birkett's time, she went from being an outsider trying to understand the ins and outs of Pitcairn life to being an outsider vaguely afraid of violence from the islanders. In the end, she was anxiously waiting for the next passing ship to pick her up and take her home.
Yet, the dream of Paradise does not die, even though we know that there is no such place, even as the result of experience. In the wee hours, in unexpected moments, we all long for the place that can never be.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars unusual spellbinder, March 28 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Serpent in Paradise (Paperback)
Dea Birkett's adventures and sensitive approach to being a guest on Pitcairn were fascinating to read. I found it hard to put her book down, and her courage is admirable. Makes one want to read more exciting personal accounts of faraway places....
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars serpent in paradise, Jan. 20 2000
By 
Karen Nugent (near Boston,Massachusetts) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Serpent in Paradise (Paperback)
A great read, very insightful as to how an isolated society can be. The book kind of makes you nervous about goingto Pitcairn. But, it is better to know. The author spared us an idyllic account,and I found that much more interesting than the usual voyage book. SHealso gave a lot of very interesting facts about the religion, food, work, government, etc,. In fact, I saw most of the people she named on the Pitcairn shopping mall on the Internet, so she was telling the truth about their handicrafts, anyway, I felt like I knew them all.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pioneer travel writing, Nov. 29 1998
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This review is from: Serpent in Paradise (Paperback)
Great fun and filled with fascinating insights. Ms. Birkett walked the walk on Pitcairn and emerged with her notebooks intact. If you enjoy high adventure AND have a sense of humor, you will treasure this book.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This woman should stay at home!, May 19 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Serpent in Paradise (Paperback)
I was astonished by this book. Ms. Birkett gets to Pitcairn Island by lying through her teeth, and it goes downhill from there. I can't imagine why such a xenophobic, suspicious, self-centered woman would choose to be a travel writer, of all things, but she is. Being already familiar with the whole Bounty/Pitcairn story, I can say that this taught me virtually nothing new, except why the Islanders are so reluctant to have strangers come to live with them. She seduces a married man, accuses another (in her book, not in person) of being a peeping tom (Her only evidence being that he moves quietly, and thus could have snuck up to a window and looked in), and towards the end of the book, and her stay, sinks into a paranoid fantasy that the Islanders may be out to murder her. I don't want to be rude, but Ms. Birkett has some serious problems. I'm sorry the people of Pitcairn Island had to share them. I was so amazed at this book I actually read another by her, to see what it would be like. In "Jella: A Woman at Sea", Ms. Birkett buys elephant ivory (In the 1990's), compares a crew mate to a wet rat, and nearly has a breakdown, suspecting that the crew is sending her a secret message to get off the ship in mid-ocean. The secret message? Michael Jackson's song "Beat It" is played during a party. Like I said, she's got problems.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The serpent, May 23 2002
This review is from: Serpent in Paradise (Hardcover)
I really enjoyed this book. Unlike many of the reviewers, I knew nothing about Pitcairn Island before I read this book. I greatly sympathised with the author, feeling herself an outcast in a narrow-minded society. The reality is that not all people are able to set aside their biases and stereotypes, and this book embraced stereotypes subjectivity. This is not I believe, supposed to be a book about the island itself, but rather about how people react when isolated in one spot and being unable to escape from the prying eyes of others. It really got me thinking what I would do had I been in that situation. And the book started an interest in Pitcairn for me.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile Read, Aug. 30 2001
This review is from: Serpent in Paradise (Paperback)
Like many people I have found the story of the founding of Pitcairn Island fascinating and have always wondered about the descendents of the Bounty. Although somewhat gossipy in tone, I don't fault Ms. Birkett so very much. She is obviously not a trained observer of human nature. But she does bring us tales of a lifestyle completely unknown to most of us, and isn't that what a book should do, transport us beyond our own daily lives?
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3.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile Read, Aug. 30 2001
This review is from: Serpent in Paradise (Paperback)
Like many people I have found the story of the founding of Pitcairn Island fascinating and have always wondered about the descendents of the Bounty. Although somewhat gossipy in tone, I don't fault Ms. Birkett so very much. She is obviously not a trained observer of human nature. But she does bring us tales of a lifestyle completely unknown to most of us, and isn't that what a book should do, transport us beyond our own daily lives?
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4.0 out of 5 stars Expectations be Damned!!, Aug. 6 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Serpent in Paradise (Paperback)
It's funny to see the bias of "readers" who can't connect with what's being written. A read of the sleeve will tell you this isn't a travel, sociological, anthropological or any other kind of 'behind the veil' writing. Ms. Birkett has written a book that follows exactly what she describes at the outset: her own personal, spontaneous journey to an acknowledged fantasy. Her experiences on Pitcairn Island dispell quickly such a fantasy world. This lesson seems to have upset many readers despite the title being an obvious reference to herself. The highly collectivized, anti-individualized prisoners of Pitcairn/oblivion ritually refuse to answer even the simplest questions or equally spontaneously ignore her completely is a clear scuttling of the touchy-feely environmentalist fallacy of the Garden of Eden. Her book is ultimately about herself (the title?????) because it is her own self-motivated whim that took her there. So what? It might have been interwoven with other views, if the islander's facade of friendliness wasn't a complete sham. As for claims that she was self-absorbed, what "acclaimed" travel writer isn't narcisistic? Chatwin? Marco Polo? Birkett is brutally honest and her contribution is worthwhile, even important if only for the fact that she dispells the notion of today's globe-hopping my-room-with-an-"X" naive belief that you can vicariously understand a people or a culture at all from ANY distance outside the peoples themselves, day-tourist trinket buyers and reviewers to the contrary. Boo. Hoo. The grumbling armchair adventurers would do well to follow in her footsteps before venting well out of their league. Good 'un D.B.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Anthropology in the tell-all format of a Hollywood Biography, July 4 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Serpent in Paradise (Paperback)
This book is worth reading, not so much for a view of life on Pictcairn Island or for a history of The Bounty, but rather because of the fascinating and powerfully disturbing portrait of a completely self absorbed author. She lacks the most basic respect for the subject she rights about. The gall of this woman. She lies about he reason for visiting the island and is welcomed as a guest into these peoples homes and community, and then had the nerve to criticize the intimate details of their lives. At the same time she behaves like a spoiled adolescent who expects to be universally accepted and the center of attention. It's no wonder they didn't like her.
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