by George Lamming ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 30, 1981
Two non-tourist English couples are in a plane bound for the Caribbean island of San Cristobal as this 1958 novel (never published here until now) opens--and, in the midst of bad weather outside, there's an interior storm as well: a huge, apparently crazy black man begins to rave and brandish pistols. He calms down shortly thereafter, but the impression made on the English couple is indelible and fateful: the black man turns out to be a prophetic, destiny-enwrapped figure named Shepard. And Shepard will lead--mostly by vision--a political movement in San Cristobal, a movement which will involve both Englishmen: Mark, a writer; and Bill, who is awaiting a staff job with the San Cristobal radio. Furthermore, both men will play a decisive part in Shepard's death--as their respective mates try to keep up with the troubling moral exigencies. This, then, is a complex, ambitious novel, with sub-themes layering one atop the other: there's a boy-band of sons of revolutionaries (corresponding to an island myth, The Tribe Boys and the Bandit Kings); there's a fire that destroys the island's mental asylum--killing both Mark's wife Marcia (a patient there after Mark has deserted her) and Bill's wife Penelope, who'd been visiting. And Lamming (In the Castle of My Skin, Water with Berries) textures the complexities with often-haunting native dialogue: ""Tis like the sea, Thief, life ain't got no favors to give but the favor each man can take. An' if you choose a murderin' evil, whatever you choose it make no difference, then you buildin' a tabernacle that can only house one breed, an' the sun goin' set a lastin' disgrace on the bones that help you build."" So, though the narrative is not always easy to follow--the story snorts and wheezes under too much writing now and again--the integrity and seriousness are large here; and the belated US publication of this difficult but rewarding novel is a welcome addition to the available oeuvre of a major figure in West Indian literature.
Pub Date: Nov. 30, 1981
Page Count: -
Publisher: Allison & Busby--dist. by Schocken
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1981
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