CARGO by Jane Rawlinson

CARGO

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KIRKUS REVIEW

After The Lion and the Lizard (set in Iran) and Cradle Song (set in Kenya), Rawlinson takes another biting look at the Third World--this time following the parallel, not-quite-intersecting fortunes of the Stillmans, two stereotypically awful American tourists cruising the Caribbean, and that of Ophelia, a beautiful young woman fleeing fictional Monday Island in hopes of realizing her greater ambitions in the US. In a novel that jumps back and forth in time, presenting short scenes and some arch commentary that fit together almost like a jigsaw puzzle, Rawlinson introduces fat, cheap, boorish Harry Stillman, caught up in cowboy fantasies, and his desperate (thinking about killing Harry to get rid of him) wife Betty--two losers traveling on the pointedly named Dream of America; Thomas, their black cabin steward who sees to their needs while suffering because his beloved Ophelia has left him; and Ophelia herself, who--after all her legitimate attempts at bettering her life have been cruelly thwarted--embarks in the hold of a cargo ship (which evokes memories of her grandmother telling family histories of slavery) to be smuggled into an American port as a prostitute. A detailed and loving portrait brings the doomed Ophelia to vibrant life, but the Stillmans, who never rise above clumsy caricature, sink this ship.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1989
Publisher: Andre Deutsch--dist. by David & Charles