- By Charles Montgomery

The Shark God: Encounters with Ghosts and Ancestors in the South Pacific

  • Title: The Shark God: Encounters with Ghosts and Ancestors in the South Pacific
  • Author: Charles Montgomery
  • ISBN: 9780060765163
  • Page: 133
  • Format: Hardcover
  • The Shark God Encounters with Ghosts and Ancestors in the South Pacific When Charles Montgomery was ten years old he stumbled upon the memoirs of his great grandfather a seafaring missionary in the South Pacific Poring over the faint text and faded pictures he was entr

    When Charles Montgomery was ten years old, he stumbled upon the memoirs of his great grandfather, a seafaring missionary in the South Pacific Poring over the faint text and faded pictures, he was entranced by the world of black magic and savagery the bishop described, and couldn t help but wonder what drove the Victorian to risk his life among people who had shot, drownedWhen Charles Montgomery was ten years old, he stumbled upon the memoirs of his great grandfather, a seafaring missionary in the South Pacific Poring over the faint text and faded pictures, he was entranced by the world of black magic and savagery the bishop described, and couldn t help but wonder what drove the Victorian to risk his life among people who had shot, drowned, or clubbed to death so many of his predecessors.Twenty years later and a century after that journey, Montgomery sets out for the reefs and atolls of Melanesia in search of the very spirits and myths the missionaries had sought to destroy He retraces his ancestor s path through the far flung islands, exploring the bond between faith and magic, the eerie persistence of the spirit world, and the heavy footprints of Empire.What he discovers is a world of sorcery and shark worship, where the lines between Christian and pagan rituals are as blurred as the frontiers of fact, fantasy, and faith After confrontations with a bizarre cast of cult leaders, militants, and mystics, the author, in his quest for ancient magic, is led to an island in crisis and to a new myth with the power to destroy or to save its people forever.Alternately terrifying, moving, and hilarious, with overtones of Melville and Conrad, The Shark God is Montgomery s extraordinary and piercingly intelligent account of both Melanesia s transformation and his own This defiantly original blend of history and memoir, anthropology and travel writing, marks the debut of a singular new talent.

    1 thought on “The Shark God: Encounters with Ghosts and Ancestors in the South Pacific

    1. Tinakula Volcano, Solomon Islands.2.5 stars.I read Paul Theroux's The Happy Isles of Oceania (1992) before reading Charles Montgomery's The Shark God (2004), which is also known as "The Last Heathen." Theroux's book was an informative and entertaining travel book that visited over a dozen Pacific island nations, whereas The Shark God retraces the journey of the author's great-grandfather, who was a missionary in Melanesia. Montgomery's travel focuses solely on Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. Fu [...]

    2. It can be slow and the narrator can blather on and on. I want believe what he saw was real, but I'm not sure if it was a hallucination or if he was exaggerating to make up for a sort of boring travelogue. I don't remember why I rated it 5 stars, but I did so. yeah.

    3. I owned this book for six years before finally deciding to try it. Once I began the first chapter, however, I was hooked. Montgomery analyzes history, anthropology, custom and religion without ever being pedantic or didactic. Stylistically, the prose is precise, evoking fine descriptive details that capture the essence of the places and individuals he encounters.Motivated to learn about his great-grandfather's missionary days in Melanesia, Montgomery discovers and unveils more than place and peo [...]

    4. This book begins as an ethnography of Melanesia and becomes a journey between myth and faith. The author retraces the steps of his great-grandfather, the Anglican bishop of Melanesia in the late 19th Century, who chronicled an earlier ethnography titled: "The Light of Melansia." The first Montgomery author described groups of natives gradually succumbing to the advent of Christianity in these faraway islands, where ancient customs had been the rule. The second Montgomery author seeks to uncover [...]

    5. The author’s great grandfather was an Anglican bishop who had spent some time in Melanesia. His old writings inspired Montgomery to visit Vanuatu and the Solomon islands to see how Christian missionaries had affected the spirituality of the people who had been ancestor worshipping cannibals. His descriptions of the physical place were disconcerting. These are not tropical paradises but steaming, bug infested, mud stained, impoverished hell holes. The people tend to be nominally Christian to an [...]

    6. Mam problem z tą książką - z 1 strony to fascynujące świadectwo historii misjonarstwa i kolonializmu angielskiego, który zmiótł z ziemi kultury pierwotne Melanezji, choć tak naprawdę to plemiona melanezyjskie wchłonęły chrześcijaństwo i dostosowały do własnych wierzeń. Z drugiej strony autor tego reportażu wzbudza momentami irytację, nudę jak również rozbawienie. Pisze tę książkę w taki sposób, że jednocześnie czytelnik z politowaniem patrzy na jego próby znalezie [...]

    7. Gosh, I was so excited to pick this up at the library. I only got through half of it and that was a challenge on it's own. The author seemed arrogant and naiive. Is it possible that he is more racist and ignorant than his Victorian grandfather? I kept thinking he would eventually join us in the 21st century. The author is clearly highly educated, but when it comes to social and cultural understanding and acceptance, he is definitely lacking.

    8. Montgomery went in search of magic. Well actually he just wanted to trace his ancestor's footsteps, but then his mission quickly became the unknown and magic once he was in Melanesia. This book, rather than be on comparative religion and travel like I thought it would be, actually read more as a memoir (although to be sure there is religion and travel included).As a young boy, Montgomery discovered journals from his missionary ancestor and the stories contained within fascinated him enough that [...]

    9. The author learned that his great-grandfather was an Anglican missionary in the 1890's in Melanesia. He decides to travel to the Melanesian Islands (Vanuatu and Solomon Islands including Guadalcanal and Malaita) to see the results of the Christianizing of the islands.Is this a travel monologue? Yes. Is this an expose of missionary work? Yes. Has Christendom arrived and still present today in the islands? Yes, as long as you understand that many of the pagan myths remain a part of this Christiani [...]

    10. Nice writing, the guy clearly has talent. He really makes the setting come alive. There's just something about this book that grates on me and I can't put my finger on it. Maybe it's that he knows the faults of past writers and explorers (treating local populations like potential museum pieces, delegitimizing their beliefs, you know, the whole colonial approach to non-white non-europeans). Yet, he doesn't seem to miss a chance to write about the mysterious and the "surreal" and the exotic. But m [...]

    11. The concept was really interesting - a study of traditional religions in the South Pacific, something I really don't know about. The execution was lackluster - though the author's personal connection was valuable, too much of the book was an indulgent travelogue with complaining about conditions and a tone of smug superiority in his post-modern rejection of Christianity; the author does commendably recognize his romanticism of traditional religions. On top of that the author occasionally waxes u [...]

    12. In hindsight I changed my rating from 3 to 2 stars.I found the history and descriptions of the islands interesting, but the narrator annoyed the hell out of me, and considering the book is autobiographical, I don't think that was the intention.While describing historical white people traveling to these islands as racist, and looking at the savage natives, somehow I get the feeling the writer himself is more racist than he'd like to admit.Also his insistence on challenging everyone he meets on do [...]

    13. This is an informative, interesting (and often entertaining) look at the religious practices of islanders in the South Pacific as observed by the great grandson of a Christian missionary who visited those islands years before.The subject matter is interesting and the book is well written. I have a problem with non-fiction when there are too many names and facts to remember - probably why I struggled with History in school - and became overwhelmed a little over halfway through the book. Although [...]

    14. A book in the "historical footsteps" genre - the inspiration being Montgomery's own great-grandfather's Victorian missionary work in the islands. Less of a travel narrative than I'd expected, heavier on the anthropological angle, which made it a bit dense. I found Alexander Frater's Tales from the Torrid Zone (also footsteps of local clergy missionary ancestors) easier going, but recommend both.

    15. p2 "Inside was a postcard from Egypt, stamped at Port Said: Jan. 30, 1884. There was no image on the front of the card, just the address of one Reverend Prebendary Plant, the vicar of Weston-on-Trent.""Myth, like love, is a decision. What it answers is longing. What it demands is faith. What it opens is possibility." p294Interesting anthropological quest to follow his missionary grandfather's route in Vanuatu and The Solomon Islands.

    16. A wonderful introduction to how missionaries impact a community in the south Pacific. Montgomery tries to retrace the steps of his ancestors, but finds that quite a bit has changed, even though much remains the same. A good study of how cultural imperialism and faith often fail to acquire the results they want. See more here: Sects and Violence in the Ancient World.

    17. This is one of those books I stopped reading halfway through and fully intend to finish. Thus far, it deserves four stars. I didn't stop out of boredom or frustration, just distraction.It's a really interesting exploration of the cargo cults of the South Pacific and the encounters between Christianity and native religions.

    18. A combination of travel writing -- through the polynesian islands off the coast of Australia and New Guinea -- and exploration of the intersection of Christian missionary efforts and beliefs and the native ancestor worship on the islands. My good friend Gary gave me this book for my birthday, and I really enjoyed it.

    19. UGH. having a very hard time getting into this book. I was hoping the author wouldn't take on the very same 'heart of darkness' type ideas of the 'savagery' of the indigenous islanders in MelanesiaI'm not sure I want to keep reading a book the is recycled racist colonial nostalgia about the paegen and savage brown islanders.

    20. I still can't decide how I feel about this book. It's an epic journey, both literally and figuratively, for this Canadian author who follows the myths and tales of his family off to the South Pacific. The author writes beautifully, and with real insight, about religion in that region but I found it dragged. And dragged.

    21. This is actually probably 3.5 stars. I enjoyed the story and the representation of all the islands. It was more than just a tourist history of the islands. The focus on religious myth was an interesting take on it. And overall he did a pretty good job of being equally critical of all parties involved.

    22. i didn't actually finish this book. It certainly has potential to be an interesting read, the subject matter is interesting, and it seemed like that is what was going to carry the story along, at some point. His writing style felt very dry to me, and I found myself skipping over his descriptions of the various islands instead of being drawn into them.

    23. I may not have read this book had I not met the author at a party and experienced his shy passion about the story. A true story, and I particularly enjoyed the spiritual aspects that I 'read into it' although it may not have been the same truths as the author's. Memorable story, brilliantly written. And in fact, it became award winning deservably so!

    24. Just picked it up off of the shelf at the library, and I was very pleased. I probably should have given it a higher ranking, but there are a lot of books out there. The author is very gifted, and I think labeling him a "travel writer" is a misnomer. I am still working my way through it, but I expect to finish it soon.

    25. This is a travelogue of the Melanesian islands, travelled by a man retracing the steps of an ancestor, who was a missionary in the South Pacific. Pretty interesting story riven by seasickness and substandard plumbing.

    26. a must for travelers going to the Solomons, or those who have spent time there and love the South Pacific. Gets a bit "thick" half way throughbut I still enjoyed itures the moments on those South Pacific interisland ferries perfectly

    27. Lots of interesting vignettes about wandering through micronesia as a white descendant of an earlier whiter wanderer. Sometimes hard to keep the sequence of events straight.

    28. I think I'd like to buy this so I can read it as slowly as I want. It does sound really fascinating, and I don't want to be rushed by some library deadline.

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