Catching the Sun, by Tony Parsons
After a harrowing experience at his London home, Tom Finn becomes disillusioned with British life, and uproots his family for the idyllic setting of Thailand, and Phuket’s Hat Nai Yang Beach. Here, life seems perfect, immersed in a world of sun, sea and sand, surrounded by unspoiled nature and away from the hectic, dangerous Western world. Paradise is fleeting, however, and soon events conspire against Tom and his family. Before long, Tom’s dream of ‘ESCAPE TO PARADISE’ is under threat from both the forces of nature and the ever encroaching and increasingly immoral world of business and modern man.
Catching the Sun acts a cautionary tale on chasing the dream of paradise. The plot follows Tom’s misguiding attempts at finding the perfect, idyllic world he craves for him and his family, entering a world of dreams that soon turns to one of nightmares. As the perfect world Tom chases for his family begins to give way to the pressures of the outside world, Parsons seems to question whether paradise is ever possible, and whether any place is safe from the forces of nature and the materialist world of modern (and particularly Western) man.
Even so, Parsons clearly loves the world of northern Thailand, and his descriptions of Hat Nai Yang and the surrounding areas are written with a lyric beauty that can only suggest Thailand as an idyllic world even after the worst disasters. Parsons writes with such startling clarity that it is almost too easy to imagine yourself on the perfect sands of the beach or among the unspoilt rainforests of northern Thailand, and a sheer idolisation of the wildlife of Thailand shows through constantly. One could argue that Parsons may be blinded by his own view of Thailand as an unspoilt paradise, but perhaps Parsons is fully aware of the increasing disappearance of such places, and writes to capture the essence of such places before paradise disappears forever to the relentless destructive march of tourism and capitalism.
Parsons’ characters are as lovingly crafted as his descriptions of Thailand, and it is hard not to empathise with the Finn family. From Tom, whose sometimes misguided attempts to do whatever is right to protect and save his family stem from sheer love, to the humanitarian wife Tess and her charity for the citizens of Phuket, and their children Keeva and the animal-loving Rory, whose childish innocence is slowly eroded by the misfortunes the family suffers, all the characters are treated with respect and care. Even Parsons’ animal characters are given a careful characterisation, and demonstrate the effect of the uncaring human world on the natural.
Catching the Sun, whilst perhaps at times overly idealistic, is still a good read, questioning people’s own nature to find the perfect world, and whether that nature’s darker side means paradise is inevitably lost no matter how hard we try.