A young man in Guyana becomes caught between two women he professes to love in this debut novel.
Vicky grows up in Port Mourant, Guyana, doubly stymied by the burden of poverty and a limitlessly irresponsible father, who finally abandons him when he’s 7 years old. Vicky eventually becomes a teacher and, at 18, he falls deeply in love with one of his students, 16-year-old Julie. She’s slow to reciprocate his affections, and convinced Julie doesn’t love him, Vicky pursues other women only to encounter romantic failure and humiliation. Julie finally requites his feelings, and the two become such a devoted couple that Vicky’s mother frets anxiously that Julie will become a distraction from his studies. Vicky is accepted into a university in Georgetown and leaves Julie behind, but they passionately pledge their lives to each other, and plan to reunite once he graduates. But their future is threatened when Vicky begins a sexual relationship with another woman, Seema, who becomes pregnant as a result. Rajrup’s exhaustingly melodramatic tale is largely a chronicle of Vicky’s pathological combination of mendacity and indecision: Sometimes he pines to be free of Seema and longs to return to Julie. The author keenly depicts the wages of emotional dysfunction—Vicky, Seema, and Julie all suffer lifelong consequences from poorly rendered decisions. At one point, Vicky tries to arrange a secret wedding ceremony that will somehow elude Julie’s detection. And even after he’s legally wed, he still declares his undying commitment to Julie in histrionically poetical terms. His marriage to Seema is predictably disastrous, and Vicky seems permanently fixated on the possibility of a reunion with his first love. The author offers some rich psychological details, but the plot shiftlessly wanders from scene to scene, as if intended to mirror the vacillation of its protagonist. Furthermore, the prose is by turns awkwardly mechanical and cloyingly sentimental: “It took me a week of begging to assuage her bitter anger, and one week and four days to implore her to accede to my request for a well-planned date to the cinema.”
This drama skillfully portrays the costs of emotional dysfunction but delivers a rambling plot.