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2018-1: Happiness is a Lost Island
by Lise O'Farrell.
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Publisher's Foreword: Lise Pothin grew up in Mahé, the largest island of the Seychelles archipelago. She left in 1969 to study in the USA. Throughout her youth, and for five years after she left, life on Seychelles was as close as one could come on Earth to life on a separate planet. Mahé is separated from Africa, the nearest continent, by a thousand miles of ocean. To the northeast, the nearest point of India is fifteen hundred miles, and to the east, Australia is two-and-a-half thousand miles. To travel to the USA, Lise had to start by taking the three-day voyage to Mombasa. For most Seychellois, most of the time, the only evidence of the outside world were the procession of expatriate British colonial administrators, the London traders who came for the annual copra and spice auctions, and the evening news broadcast on shortwave radio from the BBC World Service. None of these did much to engage the minds of a population that was largely self-sufficient, that found enough of interest in its own communal life, and that normally spoke French or the local Creole patois. The rhythm of daily life still followed the pattern established in the eighteenth century by the French settlers who colonised the islands. The isolation of this little world was ended with the opening of the international airport in 1974, followed shortly by independence, tourists, and many changes. Despite the usual claims of the tourist promoters, the Seychelles of Lise's youth has gone. Even without its gripping story, this novel would stand as a unique record of that vanished place and time.



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Lise O'Farrell comes originally from Seychelles, then a British colony in the Indian Ocean. Her ancestors were French colonial settlers, who left France before the Revolution. After O-levels and a two-year stint in the Civil Service, she returned to education, completed A-levels and won a scholarship to Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island where she met her Irish husband. She majored in English and French literature, qualified as a Secondary teacher and taught in a public school. She moved to Los Angeles for two years and then to Ireland, where she raised three children and engaged in many voluntary activities, among them organising a youth club and adult daytime education. Nowadays, she continues her voluntary work, enjoys her seven grandchildren, and for recreation engages in choral singing, walking and gardening. She has been writing for years but latterly has given it more time. In 2003 one of her short stories, Boy, was shortlisted for The Hennessy Prize. In 2015 her second novel The Tears of God made the Long List in the Writers Centre Novel Fair. The present novel, her first, had the working title Isabelle, after the name of the principal character. The present title is inspired by Isabelle's progression from an idyllic childhood to increasingly bitter experience.

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Updated 5-4-2018
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