As I'm writing a novel for NaNoWriMo I'm trying to put myself in the right frame of mind by reading non-fiction books that relate to some of the themes found in my novel. Island living is one of these themes and one of the books I've chosen to read is Playing with Water by James Hamilton-Paterson.
This book is a memoir centred on the years that Hamilton-Paterson spent living on an island he calls Tiwarik off the coast of the Phillipines. It is an uninhabited island but one that is popular with youngsters from nearby villages as a place to play, camp and fish. Hamilton-Paterson finds a niche for himself in the local community, not least because he turns out to be an expert spear fisherman.
The author has a wonderful eye for detail and describes the underwater world beautifully, there is a particularly breathtaking sequence when he stays underwater almost too long and afterwards realises that the air he had been breathing had been tainted with oil, so his sightings became more and more dreamlike and surreal. He also meditates on the damage caused to the local ecology by the large ships that dynamite the coral reefs. He also is saddened by the fact that the local fishermen often use poisons and small amounts of explosives in their fishing, but realises that for them it is a matter of survival and making a few pennies at the local market. (Interestingly he doesn't seem to differentiate himself from the local spear fishermen, who use the most sustainable form of fishing, without reflecting that he made a choice to live there and kill those fish, while the local people have no choice if they are to stay in the area.)
He also ponders his early life (at first I had found these flashbacks annoying, because I thought that the book was meant to be a travel book, but later I realised how insightful they are).
Sadly since the book was written, the island of Tiwarik has been bought by a Japanese company and turned into a tourist resport.