ROMANCE by Joan Riley


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 From a Jamaican writer now living in Britain, an overly schematic tale of immigrant anger and alienation. Set in contemporary London, Riley's (A Kindness to the Children, 1992, etc.) domestic tale about two Caribbean-born sisters who are coping with racist whites and sexist black males is framed, clumsily at times, by political ideas. The characters, struggling to find themselves, expound soberly on such topics as racism and feminism while taking their tea or cooking their dinners. Desiree has always been the responsible one, raising younger sister Verona after their father was killed in a car crash, then marrying the seemingly stable John, a fellow immigrant, and bearing and caring for two daughters. On the other hand, overweight Verona still lives with Desiree at the advanced age of 27, has been stuck for the past 12 years in a dead-end job at a mail-order company, and spends much of her time reading romances and eating candy. As the story begins, Desiree is terrified by the possibility that she might have cancer. John, too, is in a bad patch; among other things, he won't support his wife's desire to go back to school. And Verona has not only been unjustly fired but won't be able to get a job reference job from her previous employer. (This is only her latest uncomfortable secret; the others include the fact of her rape at 14 by Desiree's boyfriend Ronnie.) John blames racism for his failure to be promoted at his own job, and he's far from pleased when Desiree has to have a hysterectomy. But as she's recovering, John's grandparents unexpectedly arrive from Jamaica and manage to turn the family's fortunes around by sheer force of their wisdom (``Granny Ruby was right: there never had been anything to liberate herself from but herself''). By the close, Desiree and John grow closer, Desiree indeed returns to school, and Verona even sheds some of her secrets. Vivid writing, compromised by clichÇs and didactic undercurrents.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-7043-4508-0
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Women’s Press/Trafalgar
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1997