(This book cannot be returned.)
While I Can Still Remember is the story of Norfolk Island. This work of historical fiction begins with a prologue that introduces a monolithic Norfolk Island pine at its 'birth' as a seed over 650 years ago. The story then takes us to the present where the old tree - Lone Pine - has always stood on a limestone cliff at Point Hunter on Norfolk Island. At the base of its trunk a sapling - Piali - clings to the cliff.
The island is waiting for Piali to grow strong enough to take over from Lone Pine, whose time is almost over, so the sapling's survival is vital. The old tree has been the keeper of the stories of Norfolk Island and these stories must be passed on to its successor so that the species will remain intact. If they fail, every Norfolk Island pine tree on Earth will lose its bark, its branches, and the species will become extinct.
So the stories begin of visits by Polynesians over centuries and Captain Cook's discovery of the island in 1774. We experience the first British settlement in 1788 which coincides with the settlement at Botany Bay that year. We read with horror of the brutality of a succession of governors who oversaw the prisoners living a fate worse than hell at their hands. We discover the island's silence and emptiness in 1814 when the settlement is abandoned until 1825 when it's resettled under an even more brutal regime. And then a glimmer of hope under Alexander Maconochie's rule where prisoners are finally treated as human beings worthy of reform. When Maconochie's term finishes, the brutality resumes until the British leave again in 1855 to settle in Van Diemen's Land. Now we learn about the Mutiny on the Bounty and its far-reaching consequences for a small group of sailors and Tahitians whose descendants settle on Norfolk Island.
But time is running out. Lone Pine is becoming forgetful and unable to continue passing on the island's history. His and Piali's bark is itching, a sure sign that their bark is about to shed. Suddenly the Norfolk Island pines begin to shed their bark and drop their branches. The same is happening on the mainland of Australia. The situation is grim. Their friends - the fairy terns and green sea turtles - are desperate to halt the progress of the pines' extinction. They call upon the island's flora and fauna to group together and find a way to help Piali store every last detail in his trunk, branches and leaves. Is he up to it? Can he absorb everything in such a short space of time that Lone Pine has absorbed over centuries?