One of my favourite books
"An Island to Oneself" by Tom Neale
The Story of Six Years On A Desert Island

An Island To Oneself Tom Neale (1902-1977) did what we all now and then dream of doing - go and live alone on a desert island. For years he planned, read, talked - until the great day when he was landed on his little kingdom, undismayed by the fact that he would have to struggle with the full strength of body and mind to survive. This is how he starts his story:

"I was fifty when I went to live alone on Suvarov, after thirty years of roaming the Pacific, and in this story I will try to describe my feelings, try to put into words what was, for me, the most remarkable and worthwhile experience of my whole life.
I chose to live in the Pacific Islands because life there moves at the sort of pace which you feel God must have had in mind originally when He made the sun to keep us warm and provided the fruits of the earth for the taking ... "
Continue to read the online book

Tom Neale
This book has become a South Seas classic and although Tom Neale is long gone - he died in 1977 and is buried in the cemetery opposite Rarotonga's airport - his memory lives on. Many Rarotongan residents have anecdotes or opinions of him and it seems that his book, which was ghost written, makes him out to be a much more reasonable fellow than he actually was. One person's opinion was that he was so cantankerous that an uninhabited island was the only place for him!

Tome Neale
Tome Neale
Thanks to Tom, the atoll is now one of the best known in the whole Cook Islands and yachties often call in to look in on Tom's room which is still furnished just as it was when he lived there. Today the island is populated only by a caretaker and his family.

Here are some comments by book reviewers:

"This endlessly fascinating book is Tom Neale's story of his life alone on Suvarov, a dream-life which he made come true. Apart from the sheer joy and drive of the narrative, it is absolutely required reading for the thousands who fancy doing the same. It is one of those books which is quite capable of leaving a mark on you for life." (THE BOOKMAN)

Tom Neale
Tom Neale
"Beautifully written ... moving, entertaining and exciting. Tom Neale is not a crank, a mystic, a hermit or slightly barmy. He just wanted to get the hell out, to have the satisfaction of fending for himself and proving he could do it. And, by God, he did. In every sense Mr. Neale is a man." (WOODROW WYATT, EVENING STANDARD)

"A delightful story, Cruscoesque in simplicity." (GUARDIAN)



Read Tom Neale's book online

French edition

The German edition

If you would like to live on a remote tropical island yourself, go to Pigeon Island

Read the story of German Harry

And I recently visited another expatriate, Horst Berger, on his tiny island of Lifuka in Tonga.

If all this is a little too far, come and visit us at Riverbend Cottage

Here is the story of a Swede who lived for 40 years as a recluse on a tiny island in the Torres Strait: The Swedish Robinson Crusoe

And here you can read about my meanderings through the mystical island of Bali:

Chronology of Tom Neale's Life

Born 6.11.1902 in Wellington, New Zealand. The family later moved to Greymouth and then Timaru in New Zealand's South Island.

7.10.1952 - 24.6.1954 Tom's first stay on Suwarrow.

19.6.1956 Tom married Sarah Haua Marsters in Rarotonga.

16.11.1956 Son Arthur Frederick born in Auckland, New Zealand.

16.2.1958 Daughter Stella born on Palmerston, Cook Islands.

23.4.1960 - 27.12.1963 Tom's second stay on Suwarrow.

1.7.1967 Tom's third stay on Suwarrow. Tom works with the pearl divers. He remains on the atoll after they have left.

1969 His daughter Stella visits Tom on Suwarrow.

29.7.1972 Tom's divorce in Rarotonga.

15.12.1976 Stella visits her father for the second time.

March 1977 The yacht "Feisty Lady" informs Rarotonga that Tom is seriously ill. The schooner "Manuvai" evacuates him from the island on 11.3.1977

30.11.1977 Tom dies from stomach cancer and is buried at the RSL Cemetery in Rarotonga.

As at 2001, Tom's son Arthur Frederick Neale lives on Manihiki Atoll where he operates a black pearl farm. He is divorced and has three children: Meleilani aged 24, Thomas aged 17, and Joshua aged 12.

His daughter Stella Neale-Kenyon lives in Auckland and has three children: Sarah-Elyss aged 8, Milton aged 6, and Marlow aged 3.

Tom's ex-wife Sarah Haua now lives on Palmerston Island. She is 76 years old.

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