The Beach of Falesá
The trilogy titled Island Nights' Entertainments is comprised of three stories set in the South Seas. The longest of these is The Beach of Falesá. In it the author, Robert Louis Stevenson, describes a setting that is “paradise-on-the-surface-only,” a fact that comes out right in the opening paragraph of the novella:
"I saw that island first when it was neither night nor morning. The moon was to the west, setting, but still broad and bright. To the east, and right amidships of the dawn, which was all pink, the daystar sparkled like a diamond. The land breeze blew in our faces, and smelt strong of wild lime and vanilla: other things besides, but these were the most plain; and the chill of it set me sneezing. I should say I had been for years on a low island near the line, living for the most part solitary among natives. Here was fresh experience; even the tongue would be quite strange to me; and the look of these woods and mountains, and the rare smell of them, renewed my blood."
Most of Stevenson's novels have no women or merely cardboard cutout caricatures of such, but this novella is different. There is a gal named Uma who, though she can neither read nor write, can still tell the birds from the bees. Her adventures with a white trader make this short novel an entertaining read. Also notable is the charming and intimate realism, based on Stevenson's frequent travels in the South Pacific that, over time, had grown into a love that permeates this novella.
The Beach of Falesa by Robert Louis Stevenson. Heritage Press, 1956 (1892)