Suffering through strength: The men who made Christmas Island by John Hunt © 2011
If I could only buy one book about Christmas Island this would be the one. It is a fascinating 279 page account of the human story spanning the first 50 years of the island’s mining operations. And what a story! As John says in his preface “The book is a narrative of courage, endurance and willpower, a triumph of the human spirit in an isolated island. Mistreatment, death, murder, prostitution and betrayal all played their part, especially in the earliest days before World War 1. The themes of exploitation, human weakness, culture and class kept recurring throughout the story.”
This story has been brought to life beautifully by John’s meticulous research over a 40 year period and his talent for being able to disseminate his findings into an interesting and informative read leaving the reader with that feeling of wanting to know even more. The book, on nice glossy type paper has good quality historic photos, hand drawn maps and additional stories scattered throughout titled “Legends and Mysteries”. All the content is a tour de force and I can highly recommend it. I bought this book from the gift shop at the Christmas Island Visitor Centre.
Golden Leaves: An introduction to the Chinese Cemeteries of Christmas Island by Hélène Bartleson © 2008
How I wished I had read this book before exploring the Settlement Chinese Cemetery – looking at old markers and inscriptions but not knowing what they mean; seeing old plantings and realising that they have been placed there for a reason but not knowing why. This book is the key to understanding the rich cultural significance of what you see when visiting the fascinating and historically important Chinese cemeteries at Settlement and Phosphate Hill.
Hélène explains about the headstones and their inscriptions, marker-altars, significant graves, symbolism, ceremonies and celebrations. She also gives an overview of the first indentured Chinese labourers who arrived on the Island from 1899. Many hundreds died from beriberi, accidents, illness and suicide; their final resting places are in these cemeteries. All of this in a lovely 80 page soft cover book. There are many high quality photographs both in colour and black and white, plus explanatory charts. I highly recommend this book. I bought it from the gift shop at the Christmas Island Visitor Centre.
We were the Christmas Islanders 1906 – 1980 by Marg Neale © 1988
A wonderful collection of oral histories as told by the people, Chinese, European and Malay, who called Christmas Island home. There are 27 stories in three category groups covering the: “Early Days” 1900-1945, “Middle Years” 1940s – 1960s and “Latter Days” 1970s. The stories cover the experiences, observations, trials and tribulations and more of those Islanders. Each provides a unique perspective that was largely determined by which ethnic group one belonged to. If you have an interest in Christmas Island history and enjoy reading about others’ life experiences then this 212 page book with black and white photos (and some coloured ones too) is a most enjoyable read. I bought it from the gift shop at the Christmas Island Visitor Centre.