Book Review: Michael Fitzgerald’s The Pacific Room is a tender examination of identity and self expression

In 1892, Italian painter Girolamo Nerli travels to Samoa to paint famous author Robert Louis Stevenson, known to the locals as Tusitala, ‘the teller of tales’. His goal? To capture something of the Hyde within Stevenson’s Jekyll. Over a century later, art historian Lewis Wakefield makes the same pilgrimage, in search of the story behind this portrait, leaving behind the medication that controls his bi-polar disorder and allowing him access to his own repressed feelings. Meanwhile, dancer Teuila channels the spirit of Stevenson’s servant, her ancestor Sosimo, and explores her own duality as a fa’afafine, a Samoan identity that embodies both male and female traits.

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