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Reviewed by Michelle Stanley for Readers' Favorite
“What is bred in the bone is hard to get out of the flesh” – Captain George Burt from Vasu (Captain Burt and the Cannibals), a historical non-fiction by Barrie Canfield Bonter. Captain Burt, an insightful, ambitious seafaring man was determined to make his fortune in the South Seas, despite the fact that cannibals inhabited most islands such as Samoa and Fiji. He bought goods and went to Fiji, risking his life to trade with them. Captain Burt impressed Chief Chunga Levu, a powerful cannibal chief who bestowed on him the title Vasu, meaning “a person of great importance in the tribe and territory.” He became the first white man to live among cannibal tribes and married one of the chief’s nieces. Captain Burt achieved success as a trader and eventually a cotton farmer, although some tribal members, who were jealous, plotted his demise with village raids and celebrated their victories with human barbecues.
Captain George Rodney Burt, who spent thirty-eight years in Fiji, kept meticulous journals and photographs of his fascinating experience living among cannibals in the 19th century. Unfortunately, most of the material had deteriorated and Barrie Canfield Bonter had difficulty deciphering the writing, which was also due to Captain Burt’s atrocious penmanship. The author’s hard work paid off because Vasu (Captain Burt and the Cannibals) is a most exciting historical non-fiction book that gives a personal account of Captain Burt’s life, making his home among man-eating tribes, and the rivalry between America and Britain, as each wanted to dominate the South Seas.