FIRE IN THE CANES by Glenville Lovell

FIRE IN THE CANES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A spirited tale of the post-slavery West Indies from first-novelist Lovell, a playwright-dancer and Barbadian native now living in Brooklyn. Fifty years after a Caribbean island's abolition of slavery, the conditions governing Monkey Road are no better for the black population than they've ever been. Mysterious goings-on in a gully near the town's big plantation, however, bode well for the future. From the arrival of the gorgeous, almost-white Peata and her no-less-beautiful daughter, the dark-skinned Midra, this small village is thrown into upheaval. Everyone's disapproval becomes even more vocal when Midra becomes pregnant by the mysterious Prince Johnson. Little do the people know that Midra, her son, and her half-sister will be the vehicle that drives the plantation owners out of town, liberating the townsfolk by embodying a unity of romantic love with historical resistance to oppression. Before that happens, though, there's a series of seemingly supernatural events--attacks by apparently invisible monkeys, murders with a hint of the otherworldly about them, and the reconstruction of an African mask that holds the power of revisiting the past. For Lovell, all of the magical realist elements here are an allegorical exhortation to review and make one's peace with history, to be aware of how one has come to the present. The result is a rambling, discursive novel, heavily laden with folkloric elements. Lovell neatly--perhaps too neatly--ties all the seemingly disparate elements together in the final movement. Still, in spite of this hint of excessive artfulness in the end, there's been some sprightly writing along the way and an effective evocation of lush tropical nights in a story that has a certain momentum of its own. A promising debut, entertaining if somewhat self-conscious in craft.

Pub Date: Sept. 12th, 1995
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Soho