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A Pattern Of Islands
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A Pattern Of Islands

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  159 ratings  ·  34 reviews
The funny, charming, and self-deprecating adventure story of a young man in the Pacific. Living for thirty years in the Gilbert & Ellis Islands, Grimble was ultimately initiated and tattooed according to local tradition, but not before he was severely tested, as when he was used as human bait for a giant octopus. Beyond the hilarious and frightening adventure stories, ...more
264 pages
Published (first published January 1st 1952)
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4.16  · 
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 ·  159 ratings  ·  34 reviews

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Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
Some of you will be wondering how I could choose a memoir by an actual colonial officer as my world challenge book for Kiribati. The answer is that the country's literary presence seems limited to white men's expat memoirs. Within that category, this appears to be the book based on the greatest experience of the islands and their people: Arthur Grimble worked as a British colonial officer in what were then known as the Gilbert Islands for about 20 years, the first six (1914 – 1920) of which are ...more
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Arthur Grimble clearly cherished his years spent as a colonial official in the Gilbert and Ellis Islands. He started his tenure as a young man with a new wife in 1914 and remained in the islands until 1933, although this book only relates his tale up to 1919. Grimble is honest about his naivete and inexperience and gives much credit to the native islanders who were both helpful and amused by his lack of knowledge. His adventures dealing with storms, unusual food, native customs, Pacific flora an ...more
Marina (Sonnenbarke)
This is a great book, funny and very well written, by a British civil servant who lived in the Gilbert Islands (now Kiribati) for nineteen years, from 1914 to 1933. Written in 1952, it recounts events a century old, so it definitely is dated, but it's worth reading nonetheless. If you want to understand more about today's tragic situation in the Republic of Kiribati, consider reading this long article by Jeffrey Goldberg:

For a longer review in Italian, pl
Dec 01, 2016 rated it liked it
I liked Arthur Grimble and his book. He's humble and self-deprecating in a way that feels true and unforced; he's appropriately respectful of the culture he's portraying; and he seems to have made every effort to assimilate into that culture as much as possible. He was adopted by an elder on the island where he lived, taught to recite his new family's lineage in the oral tradition of their ancestors, and was permitted to be ritually tattooed as part of his initiation into I-Kiribati society.

Jan 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
My Dad told us that 'burping' after a meal was considered polite in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. It is not in the UK. He was a very gentle father who did not like having to tell us off, but when he did we remembered. This is the book where he found that interesting little snippet of information.

In 1913 Arthur Grimble went to the Gilbert and Ellice islands as a cadet in the colonial service (a junior administrative officer), becoming a District Officer in 1916, based on Tawara and then Abemama
Colin Whittaker
Jul 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
I clearly remember the story of octopus fishing with human bait from my English classes in school some 30+ years ago and decided the pleasant memory was not in too much danger from revisiting the "autobiography".
How glad I am that I did reread it.
This is an end of empire story that is in serious danger of giving colonialism a good name. The protagonist, Authur Grimble, tells us of a lost time in the South Pacific and leaves me at least, craving for a time machine and a posting with the UK coloni
Mar 21, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Grimble was an British govt administrator in Kiribati (kir - ee - bas) / Gilbert Islands before and during WW2. His work is only matched (or close) to H E Maude. A great non-US Pacific read.
Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Arthur Grimble was a British colonial administrator on various islands in the Pacific from 1914 to 1948. This memoir tells of his time in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands from 1914 to 1933. While colonial memoirs can be tedious, Grimble's is anything but. Along with a sense of self-deprecating humor and a gift for storytelling, Grimble has been reknowned as one of the few colonial administrators to develop a deep understanding and appreciation of the areas where he worked. Grimble doesn't escape a ...more
Bob Newman
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Neophyte Nabob's Narrations of Natives & Nature

Back in 1914 a young colonial officer went off with his wife on his first assignment to the Gilbert Islands in the central Pacific. These islands and their inhabitants had been under British rule for only 22 years at the time. But unlike the stereotype of a pukka sahib, the aloof colonial officer, Arthur Grimble developed a love of the islands and their people. He writes about them with interest and sympathy, telling all kinds of tales against h
Ariel-lionel -avramlabehalevi
Dec 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone over the age of 27
Recommended to Ariel-lionel by: mentioned in a wiki article on the Gilbert Islands
this is a most amazing book!
I'm fascinated, entertained and gripped by the accounts he gives of the lives and feats of the then Gilbert Islanders and also by his own brilliant achievements, which he writes about with much modesty, but also with humour.
I'm delighted that not only is there a sequel of his to read written in the 50s, but also a film to see - Pacific Destiny - based on the 1st book! :)
My only criticism of the book is that I'd like to have read more about his wife Olivia and their ch
Aug 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tweedledum by: Headteacher
Well it took me thirty years or more to get around to reading this little treasure of a book which had sat on my bookshelves through many moves. Once begun I could not put it down. Faithfully recalling a life now long gone on the Gilbert and Ellis Islands and by turns funny, tragic, fascinating and challenging Arthur Grimble writes with a candid, nostalgic but confident tone about his time there. Now , I suppose this book could be appropriately shelved as anthropology although it was not written ...more
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
An excellent insight into the culture of the Gilbertese people through the eyes of Arthur Grimble, a civil servant posted to the Gilbert and Ellice Islands (now Kiribati) to work firstly as a district officer for the UK sovereignty, but also later as acting Resident Commissioner. Grimble offers a wonderful insight into the everyday lives of the unique Gilbertese people, offering great anecdotes about culture, language and tradition through his and his families lives on the island during his post ...more
Dec 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Well written book about how life was supposed to be on the British Overseas Territories back in the days. Mr Grimble has a good sense of humor and doesn't take himself seriously, which are 2 very important things for me. If you want to read a story about those days, buy it and read it. Enjoy !
Ann Rahfeldt
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very readable account of the author's time(1913-1919) as a British Administrator in what was then the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. The wealth of information about the life of the islanders at that time is a joy to read.
Michelle Teys
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Explained so much of the historical context of these magnificent people.
Mariteeta Neemia
Dec 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I just need to do my research on the history of the Kiribati culture in the past, even though, I am born in Kiribati and I do love my country.
Tim Newey
Sep 14, 2017 rated it did not like it
Personally?! - "Don't Bother", actually?!.. But, "Your Deal" for The Author's, Sake?!.. "Coffee-Shop"?!..
Daniel Foster
Aug 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A charming book which gives an insight into island life on the Gilbert islands. I became interested in the islands from my mother who was born there and spent some time there as a teenager. My grandfather was the captain of a merchant ship in the pacific. At this time duriing the 50s the islands were part of the british empire. My mother has allways talked fondly of the gilbertise people and the islands.
This book is written on the experiances of a young colonial official in the early twentieth
Les Dangerfield
Feb 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating read about a six year British Colonial Office posting in the South Pacific between 1913 and 1919. A posting which makes the ones I've had seem very tame. The book is a mix of social anthropology and anecdotes, often amusing, about his time in the Gilbert Islands. The lack of narrative flow sometimes makes the book less motivating than it might otherwise be. However, I enjoyed it and it is a good book to finish on World Books Day!
Nov 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Grimble writes of his experience living in the Gilbert Islands. Although he wrote the book in 1952, his family had gone there in 1914 and left in 1933. The Gilbert Islands are a stone's throw from the Carolina Islands where I lived for 4 years 1966-1970. This made Grimble's stories very visual to me. He told of his family's experiences with charm never sparing the errors he made living in a culture so different from the one he grew up in.
Jan 17, 2009 rated it did not like it
Yet another book we were forced to read at school at a tender age and found incomprehensible. It was old fashioned, even in the 70s and, as a mature adult, I discovered a copy in a second hand shop. I tried, I really tried but I couldn't make it past chapter one. I think this won a national literature award when it was first published, hence it's place on the syllabus but it even put us committed readers off.
Gerry Campbell
Dec 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
life in the Gilbert islsnds in the early 1900's

a unique account of life in the remote Gilbert & Ellice islands as a colonial officer. Grimble had an anthropological interest about the islanders & must have been the epitome of an enlightened colonial administer, writing of his experiences with humour and humility.
Jun 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an English literature designated book for my Cambridge school certificate. it tells of Sir Arthur Grimble's experiences as a British colonial administrator on the Gilbert Islands, a desolate atoll in the South Pacific. His lucid and witty style makes this book unforgettable after almost half a century! A must re-read.
Kirsty Carslaw
Apr 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Read whilst at school, I still cherish it after nearly 50 years and hope one day to visit these magical islands. Political correctness be damned, this is a charming book of great charm, innocence and love.
Mar 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Having lived in New Zealand, the Pacific theme and references are all too familiar. Grimble's charmingly self-deprecating style makes this book difficult to put down. At times, it's a bit dense, but Grimble is a captivating story teller.
Jan 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Arthur Grimble paints a picture of a society and way of life that is now all but gone. His sympathy and understanding of the Gilbert's culture and myths shows the best of the colonial administration.
Mark Thuell
Nov 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Charming snapshots of a bygone colonial era and a newly discovered people,illuminating the rather haphazard fashion that the empire was run by enthusiastic amateurs in a somewhat benign fashion
Fascinating true tales from the Gilbert Islands during the 1930-1940's, definitely worth a read
Aug 16, 2013 marked it as to-read
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Interesting but of its time with some memorable events in the live of Colonial governorship of the Gilbert and Ellis Islands.
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Around the World ...: Discussion for A Pattern of Islands 5 133 Jan 23, 2019 11:28AM  
the credibility of the 'ghosts' of the Gilbert Islanders 1 5 Dec 08, 2012 09:13AM  
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