Nothing But Rainforest (74,000 words)

Nothing But Rainforest is a literary thriller that examines the horrors of violence against women in Papua New Guinea and its effects on a volunteer teacher from England, his African American predecessor and a Papua New Guinean woman.

Set in 1987 in a remote part of the Highlands first exposed to the outside world in the 1930s, 27 year-old Simon Jones discovers his predecessor, Marcus Johnson, had vanished two months earlier. After joining a doctor on a medical trip to the jungle, Simon sees a corpse wearing Johnson’s clothes and is worried he will suffer the same fate.

Simon is the only foreigner at the school and feels increasingly lonely and isolated until Evelyn, a primary teacher from the coast, shows an interest in him. As their relationship progresses, she reassures him that Johnson must have returned to America. Their relationship becomes difficult when men discourage her from visiting him. As the extent of violence towards women becomes more apparent, he struggles to stop it from affecting him.

Simon and Evelyn are shocked when they hear that Johnson’s family have filed a missing person’s report. After Johnson’s father and brother visit Simon, he realises Johnson had been threatened by men from a nearby village for questioning violence against women and its association with witchcraft and the Pentecostal church. Against Evelyn’s advice, he is determined to find out what happened to Johnson which puts him in imminent danger.

Nothing But Rainforest is in the territory chartered by Conrad in the Heart of Darkness and by Alex Garland in The Beach. It would appeal to readers who want stories that address social injustice in the developing world such as The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver and Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones.

First page of 'Nothing But Rainforest'