Good Reading : June 2006
16 goodreading ı JUNE 2006 Célestine Hitiura Vaite’s writing makes you feel good. It is full of passion and humour, and you can almost feel the sun on your face and smell the scent of frangipani as you read her novels. Her trilogy follows the life of a feisty Tahitian, Materena Mahi, who loves her children and tries to organise her husband, Pito, supported by a cast of relatives. Célestine has a natural gift for storytelling that encompasses the importance of family, love, well-behaved husbands and food, and she gives a candid and intimate glimpse into the Tahitian way of life. Her stories are deceptively simple yet manage to give out a pearl or two of homespun wisdom and practical advice that will help soothe many a troubled heart. Célestine is just like her writing; talking to her from her home on the south coast of New South Wales, you can feel her enthusiasm bubbling down the phone. Strong and capable women are central to her stories, and when asked about her role models Célestine tells me that her own mother,Viola, was inspirational, a tough woman who worked hard to make sure that her daughters grew up with a good sense of respect for others and for themselves. She also instilled strong values of how one should live one’s life: nurture others, follow your dreams, pay heed to Tahitian traditions, legends and customs, and never be afraid to speak your mind.Viola brought her daughters up on her own, struggling financially to support her family. Célestine remembers, with a great laugh, the times her mother hid behind the net curtains to avoid the electricity man. But one thing she insisted on was giving her girls a good education, and thereby the opportunity to achieve whatever they wanted. Célestine was sent to a French private school, which encouraged a love of reading, and she discovered the French classics – her favourites being Balzac, Flaubert, Zola and Maupassant. And modern-day writers? ‘None of what I call that café café stuff, it doesn’t have any substance, but I do like writers who conjure up some magic, like Laura Esquivel’s Like Water For Chocolate .’ Her own life reads like one of her fabulous tales. At the age of sixteen, Célestine met and fell in love with a ‘spunky Australian surfer’. Six years later she left Tahiti for Australia with the surfer and their two small children. With her characteristic enthusiasm, she adopted her new home and adapted to a different lifestyle. Her first novel, Breadfruit, was written when she was pregnant with her third child and was feeling nostalgic for her family and Tahiti. It was a way of connecting to her tahitian trilogy JODY LEE talks to publishing sensation CÉLESTINE HITIURA VAITE, whose trilogy of novels set in Tahiti provoked an international bidding war between publishers.