Learn more about CCRLS
Reading recommendations from Novelist
Online learning resources
Cover image for Solomon time : an unlikely quest in the South Pacific
Solomon time : an unlikely quest in the South Pacific
1st Scribner ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Scribner, 2003.
Physical Description:
viii, 283 pages : map ; 23 cm
General Note:
Originally published: Great Britain : Abacus, 2002.
A disenchanted English schoolmaster recounts his journey to a remote fishing village in the Solomon Islands, where he haphazardly taught the locals how to raise chickens as part of his employer's plan to teach them self-reliance.


Call Number
919.593 RANDALL
919.593 Randall 2003

On Order



Who hasn't fantasized about dismantling his or her hassled, wired-up life for a simpler existence? Yet who among us has the will and opportunity to do it? The answer, of course, is very few. Will Randall, a young English schoolmaster, had such a chance -- and took it. He uprooted his conventional First World life and let himself be blown to one of the farthest and most beautiful corners of the earth, the Solomon Islands of the South Pacific. In the entertaining tradition of Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country, this is the story of Solomon Time. From the first, it's an improbable journey. In a chance encounter on a rugby field, Randall meets a doddering old man known as "the Commander," who has retired to England after running a cocoa plantation in the South Pacific for thirty years. Six months later, the Commander dies and his will is read: he wants someone to travel to his beloved, long-missed island -- where his plantation has fallen into ruin -- and devise a way for the natives to support themselves. If successful, they might avoid poverty, build a new school, and even fend off the greedy developers circling their peaceful waters. It's a mission of noblesse oblige, yet possibly a fool's errand, too. Randall agrees to go. Spread across the Tropic of Capricorn, the Solomon Islands are not so much the Pacific archipelago that time forgot as the one that forgets time. Randall's new home is Mendali, a fishing village so remote it can be reached only by motorized canoe. But the people of the village, some with cheeks engraved with a rising sun, are welcoming, for they remember the Commander kindly, and still practice a pagan Anglicanism in a church he built for them in 1956. They sleep in houses made of leaves and live on fish of every sort, mud crabs, yams, ngali nuts, even the honeycomb of termites. Randall decides that the villagers could raise chickens, and they greet the idea with enthusiasm. But finding live chicken eggs in their watery world proves wildly difficult, and Randall must chase after the eggs over shark-infested seas and through jungles where strange characters reside, including a one-eyed dwarf and a tattooed lady. One couldn't imagine a better man than Will Randall to help the people of Mendali meet the twenty-first century on their own terms. But will he succeed? Solomon Time is a moving and witty account of one man's accidental adventure in paradise and is certain to enchant explorers and armchair travelers alike.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Schoolteacher Randall was in such a rut he barely noticed it. He'd spent 10 years trying to teach French to unwilling British schoolboys. All his 30-something buddies were pairing off in respectable marriages, while his occasional girlfriends were becoming increasingly rare. Suddenly, after a slightly inebriated evening, he found himself involved in a bizarre mission: to fulfill the last wishes of an old man affiliated with his school, he agreed to go to the Solomon Islands and help organize a community project. Armed only with supreme ignorance-and a certain boredom with the life he'd been leading-Randall set off. In spite of his anxieties, he found everyone on the islands delightfully friendly, unhurried and unworried. Randall quickly relaxed into "Solomon Time," i.e., manana, whenever. His attempts to call a meeting to discuss what sort of self-help enterprise the islanders would like were ignored, so he decided they'd raise chickens, since no one else seemed to have thought of it. A capital idea-except they needed starter chicks. Randall treats readers to a picaresque adventure through the Solomons in search of elusive chicken dealers. Eventually, Randall's village not only got their chickens, but were so successful they started a Chicken Willy fast food joint. After about a year, with terrible reluctance, Randall decided it was time to return to England and see what the rest of the world was doing. Randall's account is great fun, perfect for, as the dedication suggests, "anyone who thinks it might be time for a change." Map. Agent, Kate Hordern. (Mar.) FYI: The book was published in the U.K. last year by Abacus. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

In the comical bunglers-abroad mode, a refugee from civilization regales readers with the story of his adaptation to South Seas living. English schoolteacher Randall decamped for the Solomon Islands, enjoined to fulfill the will of a plantation owner who commanded that his legacy be applied to a project for the islanders. This task structures Randall's self-deprecating narrative, for he arrives admittedly ignorant of everything about the Solomons, and his anecdotes track his risibly steep learning curve. After descending the technological transportation ladder from intercontinental jet to dugout canoe, Randall arrives on Rendova, a scene of fierce World War II combat. Peaceful languor has since reasserted itself, marked by the inhabitants' indifference to punctuality, which Randall gradually absorbs through all manner of adventures, including his mock-heroic survival as a castaway. Equally snafu plagued, Randall's project, chicken husbandry, both mystifies and amuses his islander friends, as it will Randall's readers, who will be chuckling over the author's humorous stumbles in his implicit satire on Westerners trying to uplift non-Westerners. --Gilbert Taylor

Library Journal Review

This humorous travelog recounts the story of a thirtysomething provincial school teacher from England who abandons his job in London for a sunny island in the South Pacific that can only be reached by canoe. His mission is to develop some means of sustainable business for the native people. Adapting quickly and easily to the slower pace of island life, Randall learns Pijin and settles into becoming part of the community. As he explores possible business enterprises, settling finally on a variety of chicken-related ventures, the reader is introduced to the strange and amusing people who inhabit the world of the Solomon Islands, or "Happy Islands," as they are known. Randall portrays an island life full of quirky new friends and foes, strange customs, and a set of priorities completely different from that of the "civilized" world. Along the way, he strands himself naked on a deserted island, keeps cattle interests from exploiting his new friends, and compares his experiences with authors Robert Louis Stevenson and Arthur Grimble. The narrative is witty and in no way demeans or patronizes the people and their culture. This debut will make a good addition to travel collections in all public libraries.-Sheila Kasperek, Mansfield Univ. Lib., PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.