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Mostly painful reminiscences of British life--as offered round the dinner table and out on the porch in a Caribbean setting more vivid than the anecdotes shared there. Grenadian author Buffong (Under the Silk Cotton Tree, 1993) does luminously evoke the close ties among people on Grenada, with the balmy climate and warm sea (always close enough for a swim) contrasting violently with Aunt Sarah's and Uncle Dolphus's tales of life in England. The couple never felt warm there, even in summer, were subjected to crude racial prejudice and endured demeaning jobs, like cleaning latrines, were paid lower wages for the same work whites did, and suffered frequent insults or unprovoked attacks. Though tempted often to leave, the two met and married over there, then stayed on until they were eligible for a pension and had saved enough money to buy a piece of land back home. Now in their 70s, they raise animals and grow vegetables, selling the surplus in town. But the past's pain is still alive and real. Their stories, often interrupted by comments from neighbors and relatives, are recorded by Dorothy, Aunt Sarah's favorite niece, who, intrigued by the elderly couple's experiences abroad, spends most of her time with them. Dorothy, like the other listeners, is fascinated with England, the place where so many islanders go in hopes of a better life. But the tales they hear describe a hard cold place where the neighbors don't greet one another and the ""people didn't laugh at all and when they laugh it never sounded like a laugh and the sun never felt like the 'real sun.'"" Not riveting stuff, but the very ordinariness is the appeal--in reminisences that are able to comfort and also sustain families when they get together. A quiet amble down memory lane that instructs as well as entertains--gently, a little.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
Page count: 180pp
Publisher: Women's Press--dist. by Trafalgar