Where the Hell Is Tuvalu? How I Became the Law Man of the


  • Paperback
  • 278 pages
  • Where the Hell Is Tuvalu? How I Became the Law Man of the World's Fourth Smallest Country
  • Philip Ells
  • English
  • 04 May 2015
  • 9780753511305

10 thoughts on “Where the Hell Is Tuvalu? How I Became the Law Man of the World's Fourth Smallest Country

  1. Emma Deplores academics20193.co Censorship Emma Deplores academics20193.co Censorship says:

    For a book that according to Worldcat cannot be found in a single library in the US this isn’t half bad It’s another memoir from an expat on a Pacific Island; I read it shortly after the much popular Sex Lives of Cannibals and liked it a bit better Troost is a better storyteller than Ells but Ells has interesting stories to tell This is unsurprising since Ells’s job allows him to see firsthand how people and their society function – as the People’s Lawyer of Tuvalu he is both public defender and civil law consultant for the entire country which works because Tuvalu has only about 10000 people and also family law apparently doesn’t existThe marketing for this book is way off suggesting that it is an Eat Pray Love inspiration for career change kind of memoir Not only is that off base given that the author was only in his 20s this is youthful adventure than midlife crisis but I doubt many people would want this career change Ells is isolated on a tiny island with poor housing bad food regular gastrointestinal distress and other illnesses when it gets serious he has to be medevac’d to Fiji because the local facilities are inadeuate bug and rodent infestations and no modern conveniences Oh and he works hard which makes sense when there’s an extremely limited social circle and no dating pool to speak of Sure swimming in the lagoon is a perk but this book is unlikely to inspire much travel to TuvaluI’ll get the negatives out of the way first Ells is not the world’s greatest storyteller and the book occasionally bogs down in boring descriptions of for instance expat social events Especially in the first half of the book there are numerous gross out moments and it isn’t just the setting; there’s a gratuitous turd story from Ells’s life pre Tuvalu Also the writing uses British slang to the point that I – an American who’s spent several months in England – couldn’t always decipher his meaning Finally the author’s habitually flippant tone and his callous behavior toward his seasick assistant make him seem like a jerk for much of the bookBut I warmed back up to him when he showed genuine horror toward domestic violence and sexual assault as well as an understanding of the societal pressures faced by victims He sees little of either type of crime in Tuvalu where domestic violence is not taken seriously but deals with a number of horrific crimes while on several weeks’ loan to Kiribati And it is definitely an interesting look into a tiny and remote country Much of the island’s life appears to take place on and around the airport runway and of course everyone knows everyone else – during a trial for pig stealing Ells’s assistant can’t stop laughing during his client’s testimony but then the magistrate lives down the road from the parties and so is unlikely to be fooled anyway People come to the author with everything from defamation by their neighbors to constitutional crises giving us a complete picture of island life than most foreigners are likely to ever see There is also some humor though it’s not uite laugh out loud funnyIn sum for the only book known to Goodreads to be set primarily in Tuvalu this is an adeuate read In the end I rather liked reading it so I'm rounding up to 3 stars but my copy is headed for the donation bin


  2. Heather Heather says:

    Philip Ells was a lawyer in London and he was burnt out  He decided to escape his high pressure job by volunteering with Voluntary Service Overseas  He was sent to Tuvalu to be the People's Lawyer  That job is basically serving as a defense attorney for anyone who needs one  There aren't native lawyers available for people  The prosecuting attorney was also an ex patThis job came with some problems that he hadn't expected  In Tuvalu there just isn't much crime  It is also customary to go to the police and write out a full confession immediately if you commit a crime  Everyone pleads guilty  That makes life for your defense attorney much harder  His main job was to try to get the sentences as short as possible for his clients by whatever means necessary  This led to most of the island residents calling him The People's Liar  He filled out the rest of his time by writing threatening letters to government officials of behalf of citizens  That can get awkward when you then meet the officials socially or over tennisHe also inherited Laita a secretarytranslatorparalegal with his office  She feels that the less he knows the better  He can cause fewer problems that wayThis book is written about his two years of service in the 1990s  That means that the community in Tuvalu had very limited access to the outside world  There was no internet and mail may not come if there were extra passengers on the plane From Google Maps This is the main island of Funafuti The town is on the eastern side From Wikipedia This is the whole island nation The islands are spread far apart and there was a boat that tried to make a circuit of them about once a month  Sometimes it brings back fruits and vegetables  Most of the time it doesn't which leads to ex pat fantasies of the joys of a potatoThe ex pats and the natives of Tuvalu never truly understand each other  The author writes about this with self deprecating wit  He comes to appreciate the uietness of the island especially after being loaned out to Kiribati and working for seven weeks on many horrific crimes in that country in addition to a Constitutional crisisHe may have even been able to do some good such as helping teach a three day seminar on the legal rights of women in an area where domestic violence is not taken seriously by the policeThis is an unusual memoir in that the epilogue tell what other people in the book are doing now but never updates what the author did after leaving TuvaluThis review was originally posted on Based On A True Story


  3. thereadytraveller thereadytraveller says:

    Where the Hell is Tuvalu? describes the two and a bit years Ells spent working as the People's Lawyer or the People's Liar as came to be known in the world's 4th smallest independent nation during the mid 1990's Focusing on his job and ex pat life among the Tuvaluans Ells self deprecating humour makes this an interesting read and stands almost alone as the only travel book written on this countryDisillusioned with the corporate world at the grand old age of 23 Ells decides to enroll with Voluntary Service Overseas VSO an international development charity and picks up a posting to Tuvalu situated smack bang in the middle of the Pacific OceanWith a total land area of 26 suare kilometres and a population of close to 10000 this is a nation that few will have heard of which also applied to the author who spent three months pondering whether to take the assignment Previously comprising the Ellice part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony Kiribati making up the Gilbert component the country only became fully independent in 1978 It's admission to the United Nations in 2000 means that it is the 6th newest UN member bizarrely beating Switzerland which only became a member in 2002Where the Hell is Tuvalu? mostly concentrates on Ells' interactions with other palagis pronounced pah langis the law cases he works and his daily life as an ex pat on this tiny island Naturally most of his dealings with the Tuvaluan people is through the work he undertakes in his job as the People's Lawyer It is in this role that he defends his clients mostly against charges of pig theft traffic offences and drunken fighting However on loan to Kiribati his cases become much gruesome including rape and child abuse which signals a somber tone to this part of the bookGiven his visit to and Tuvalu's close historical connection to Kiribaiti the book naturally lends itself to comparison with J Maarten Troost's book The Sex Lives of Cannibals While Where the Hell is Tuvalu? contains a greater number of funny events that take place Troost's superior writing ability makes his book the pick of the two by some distance That said there is still plenty that appeals within Ells' offeringSuffering constantly from giardiasis we probably learn way too much about his bodily functions than is absolutely necessary with this knowledge usually imparted by way of humourous events that occur to Ells Ells' considerable efforts to also become immersed in the Tuvaluan way of life ensures that we also get glimpses of some of their customs which he observes in an entirely by non judgemental fashion There's also illustrations of some of the steadfast friendships he makes during his time on Tuvalu both with other ex pats and localsAll up Where the Hell is Tuvalu? is a good read told in humourous fashion and one which provides a bit of knowledge on what life on Tuvalu is like Given the dearth of books available on this tiny Polynesian nation this is definitely recommended for anyone wanting to find out about Tuvalu So long as you're able to find it


  4. Oanh Oanh says:

    Are you a lawyer thinking of a career change? Why not volunteer to be the People's Lawyer in Tuvalu? Your experience sadly will be completely unlike Philip Ells because we are in a technological age now and when PE went to Tuvalu 1993 1994 he was heavily reliant on irregular boats bringing post for news of the outside worldThis was a fun read of a world long gone and soon to be physically gone too if the sea levels keep on rising and of the tensions between volunteers as outsiders business people as outsiders and a traditional community and tensions within that traditional community concerning women's rights violence and change PE provides insightful comment and manages to stick to the volunteer mandate of observing and not judging What is he doing now I wonder I can probably google him


  5. Helen Helen says:

    This book was a great insight into life in a completely different part of the world Kiribati as well as Tuvalu and one not influenced by the outside world very much Philip Ells writing style didn't work for me and didn't see the wit mentioned on the cover or on reviews but it also didn't have me yawning This was a random choice based on round the world in 80 books and Pointless so it could have been worse


  6. Ian Ian says:

    Well written and surprisingly entertaining and informative read recounting the experiences of a young British lawyer doing 2 years voluntary service in Tuvalu in the 90's It highlights the struggle between customary village justice and the forces of post colonial law Well worth a read as it gives great insights into Tuvaluan life on a remote Pacific island before mobile phones and the internet and describes well the often majestic setting


  7. Kelly Kelly says:

    Of all the wryly humorous memoirs about White Boys Traveling to Exotic Places ™ this is one of them It's a fairly forgettable book a year on I have forgotten all of the details both major and minor but as far as I remember sometime in the early to mid 90s Philip Ells headed off as a volunteer with the British Voluntary Service Overseas sort of the British euivalent of the Peace Corps to be the people's lawyer of Tuvalu His willingness to be the butt of the joke won my sympathy at first but his self deprecation uickly ceases to be charming and tends toward annoying and his desperate pursuit of the humorous just comes across as whingey and culturally tone deaf I mean the title alone is fairly insulting if you're from Tuvalu right?This is an excerpt from a longer review on my blog Around the World in 2000 Books


  8. Lauren Lauren says:

    Allow me to address this book in one sentence You became the lawman by signing up for a UK version of the Peace Corps when you were 23 That hardly gives you insight into telling others how to uit the rat race nor does it make a good story You went somewhere exotic that few have traveled to Congratulations Now stop patting yourself on the back and get back to work I should have known better considering I had to special order a used copy from the UK that this book was no bueno


  9. Val Val says:

    The author volunteered his skills to the population of the tiny island of Tuvalu He has a pleasant narrative style but he rambles too much like that really interesting nice chap you spent a pleasant couple of hours listening to at the pub but don't want to spend any time with


  10. Pat Schakelvoort Pat Schakelvoort says:

    Interesting look at the practice of law in Tuvalu mostly domestic violence and to a lesser estent of Kiribati loads of rapes


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Where the Hell Is Tuvalu? How I Became the Law Man of the World's Fourth Smallest Country How does a young City lawyer end up as the People's Lawyer of the fourth smallest country in the world 18000 kilometres from homeWe've all thought about getting off the treadmill turning life on its head and doing something worthwhile Philip Ells dreamed of turuoise seas sandy beaches and palm trees and he found these in the tiny Pacific island state of Tuvalu But neither his Voluntary Service Overseas briefing pack nor his legal training could prepare him for what happened thereHe learned to deal with rapes murders incest the unforgivable crime of pig theft and to look a shark in the eye But he never dared ask the octogenarian Tuvaluan chief why he sat immobilised by a massive rock permanently resting on his groinWell you wouldn't would youThis is the story of a UK lawyer colliding with a Pacific island culture The fallout is moving dramatic bewildering and often hilarious