Hummingbirds in My Hair: Adventures of a Diplomatic Wife in the Caribbean by Pamela O'Cuneen
|Hummingbirds in My Hair: Adventures of a Diplomatic Wife in the Caribbean by Pamela O'Cuneen|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: Entertaining, readable and very interesting - what it's really like to be the supporting act of a diplomatic duo. Recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 192||Date: October 2014|
|Publisher: Quartet Books|
Pamela O'Cuneen was what is known in the business as a 'diplomatic wife': the spouse of a diplomat sent abroad to represent his country. It's generally unpaid and extremely hard work - I've always thought of it as one of the original BOGOF deals. When we first meet Pamela she and her husband, KJ, have been transferred from their beloved Africa to Suriname, or Suri-where? as people always responded when it was mentioned to them. It used to be Dutch Guyana on the Caribbean coast of South America and there are few people who would think of it in terms of a holiday destination.
But the country did have quite a bit to recommend it if you were prepared to look. It tested all O'Cuneen's powers of cultural adaptation which she'd developed so well in Africa, but she did - eventually - come to enjoy the country (if not to love it) and its people. One of the problems of the diplomatic life is that you are always - at best - only a few years away from uprooting your life and moving to a different country. For KJ and Pamela this meant that three years after moving to Suriname they were on the move again - this time to Trinidad and Tobago, complete with its quarantine restrictions on bringing their beloved dog into the country.
There's a tendency to think of Trinidad as the tourist destination, but that's actually Tobago, but both were a considerable contrast to Suriname. Rather than having to rely on imported goods there were shopping malls to content the most avaricious shopper, but one of the highlights was Carnival and O'Cuneen is engaging on the preparations, the event itself and the sheer volume of the proceedings - earplugs came in useful!
O'Cuneen's sixteen years in Africa were covered in her first book, Culture Shock and Canapes, which I haven't read. Whilst I'm now tempted to do so it didn't spoil my enjoyment of this second book. O'Cuneen is a natural storyteller and to read Hummingbirds in My Hair was rather like listening to the stories told by a well-travelled friend. She has a knack for summing people up quickly (the natural instinct of the diplomatic community) and bringing them to life in just a few words. She's also happy with people from all walks of life and it's their descriptions which bring the countries to such vivid life. Her approach is positive - almost relentlessly so on occasions - but she neatly highlights the stresses and strains of the diplomatic community and the loneliness which sometimes has to be endured.
The book was thoroughly enjoyable and I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
For more from South America we can recommend One River: Explorations and Discoveries in the Amazon Rainforest by Wade Davis.
You can read more book reviews or buy Hummingbirds in My Hair: Adventures of a Diplomatic Wife in the Caribbean by Pamela O'Cuneen at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Hummingbirds in My Hair: Adventures of a Diplomatic Wife in the Caribbean by Pamela O'Cuneen at Amazon.com.
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