EDEN BURNING by Belva Plain
Kirkus Star

EDEN BURNING

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This time Plain places her family saga in the fictional Caribbean island-country of St. Felice and follows the criss-crossing careers of two men who, unknown to each, are half-brothers--one a white American, the other a Cambridge-educated, half-black St. Felice native. The tangle begins in 1928, when 15-year-old Teresa Francis and young, black Clyde Reed, a carpenter's assistant whose love of books (unusual in the white-dominated society) is encouraged by Teresa's aristocratic grandfather ""Pete,"" innocently wander into the St. Felice woods. Teresa is instantly pregnant, of course; dear, kindly Pere murders Clyde; Teresa is sent to Paris. And the baby, given to Teresa's black companion/maid Agnes, is brought back to St. Felice and named Patrick Courson. Meanwhile, Teresa marries self-centered stockbroker Richard Luther--and they produce son Francis, who in maturity will marry cool Marjorie and return to take over Pere's mansion ""Eleuthera."" So now, decades later, all of Pete's acknowledged (and otherwise) descendants gather in St. Felice: Francis and Marjorie; Lionel, Teresa's half-brother from her mother's second marriage; Lionel's wife, spiky reformer Kate; secret-blooded Patrick, now a teacher married to DesirÉe, daughter of a black union organizer. And on the island colonial mores still oppress the natives who, except for a tiny ""light brown"" professional class, are ill-paid, deprived, and exploited by white planters. But independence from Britain is then achieved, with Patrick's boyhood friend Nicholas Methune leading the moderate-liberal New Day Progressive Party to victory. Francis, an idealist, supports Nicholas, yearns for reform, finds a soulmate in Kate as his marriage cools. And by this time Patrick and Francis, with harmonious political views, have become good chums. Alas, however, Prime Minister Nicholas is a closet Papa Doc: in no time he's dealing with mobsters, hiring killers, ignoring reform promises, and fattening Swiss bank accounts. So, on the night of a general strike, there's a wow of a row between Patrick and Francis (who's no more Mr. Nice Guy when he finds out that no one is picking his bananas); Eleuthera is torched by Patrick's adopted terrorist son; and Marjorie gives birth to a daughter (which is the reason Francis couldn't leave her). But finally Nicholas is shipped off, Patrick is the new leader, Francis simmers down, and there's a sad, violent fadeout once Patrick learns the family secret. Not as good as Evergreen, better than Random Winds--with lots of worthy gab about justice: another Plain-prose, well-meaning saga headed for the charts.

Pub Date: June 14th, 1982
Publisher: Delacorte