by Dionne Brand ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 1, 1997
A first novel from Trinidadian-born Brand, now living in Canada, that's more prose poem than conventional fiction, unevenly evoking the relationship of two Caribbean women caught up in a revolution. The account of Elizete and Verlia's meeting, their love, and their tragic parting is told in sections that are an uneasy mix of poetic dreams on the one hand and politics on the other (Marx, Che, Fanon, and other Left-ish idols are quoted). Elizete, abandoned by her mother, begins with her memories of being brought up by a childless woman who told her stories of the slaves and their secret rebellions. When the woman died, Elizete was ""given"" to Isaiah, a brutal farmworker who beat and raped her. But her miserable life spent satisfying Isaiah by night and cutting cane by day changes when Verlia arrives from Canada. Verlia has come to organize the local cane-workers. (The island is nameless, but it's history resembles that of Grenada.) The two women fall in love, and after the uprising fails, Elizete heads to Toronto in search of Verlia, who by then has disappeared. In Toronto, she experiences anguish and repeated (and melodramatic) indignities. The rigidity of the political subtext--the wickedness of whites and the inadequacies of men--repeatedly subverts the story. After many travails, Elizete arrives at a center run by Abena, a former lover of Verlia's. Verlia, also Caribbean-born, in turn describes her feelings of alienation from her birthplace; her journey to Canada, which ended not in a college education but in service in of the political movement; the comfort of Elizete's affection; and the failure of the revolution she helped make. Love like theirs is doomed, and as the revolt is quashed, Verlia, it turns out, has come to a bitter end. Luminous prose and some on-target insights into the immigrant experience, but the polemic and the passion seem more contrived, however artfully addressed, than fresh and persuasive.
Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1997
Page Count: 256
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1997
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