A chorus of voices brings humanity to a little-known moment in Caribbean history.



A schoolgirl seeks answers when her city explodes after long-simmering tension.

Émilienne is the daughter of a bureaucrat in French-occupied Guadeloupe in 1967. The youngest of nine siblings—all named for their ambitious yet ineffectual father—she is her daddy’s princess. Her family regards the 9-year-old as precocious, in need of protection. Outsiders consider her disarming, a girl who freely communes with the dead. Because of this, Émilienne serves as the novel’s medium, calling upon those who have passed for answers after she witnesses unspeakable violence. The novel is based on a real event that occurred in Pointe-à-Pitre—three days in May when ongoing negotiations between bureaucrats and a construction workers’ union devolved into the massacre Émilienne witnesses. Multiple voices, living and dead, are woven throughout, following the form of a Creole square dance called a quadrille. The rich assemblage of perspectives gives a pulse to an event formerly unacknowledged in French history. The larger backdrop to the story is the way imperialism grates in the present, affecting everyone from the innocent to the ignorant to the complicit. On one hand, there is Émilienne’s beloved schoolteacher, Madame Ladal, who disappears following a classroom visit from a man who makes sinister assurances: “Don’t mind me, children. I didn’t come here for you.” On the other is Émilienne’s Uncle Justin, who declares, “I didn’t even know anything was going on in La Pointe. Not a clue.” In between are the silently compliant and selective snitchers, whatever brings the greater reward. Translated from the French by Miller, Dambury’s ear for dialogue buoys her novel, though the labored use of the quadrille as an organizing device is a distraction.

A chorus of voices brings humanity to a little-known moment in Caribbean history.

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-55861-446-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feminist Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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