Historical fantasy with a strong erotic element from the Locus award-winning author.
Hopkinson (Skin Folk, 2001, etc.) tells her story through the eyes of three women: Auntie Mer, a slave in French-colonial Haiti; Jeanne DuVal (LeMer), the black mistress of Charles Baudelaire; and Meritet, a Nubian prostitute in the Alexandria of a.d. 400. The three women are linked by Ezili, one of the love goddesses (or the lwa, to use the name their worshippers call them) of the voodoo pantheon, who travels across time to possess each of the three. The greatest tension exists in Auntie Mer’s story, where the seeds are planted that will eventually result in the revolution freeing Haiti’s slaves. The remnants of African religion—ruthlessly suppressed by the slave owners—are kept alive in secret midnight meetings, where the spirits of the lwa take human bodies to serve as their steeds. Jeanne DuVal preserves some of the memory of these deep African roots, which her French contemporaries consider as primitive, earthy, and exotic, an attitude underscored by quotations from Baudelaire’s poems. Meanwhile, fifteen hundred years earlier, as the result of a comic series of misunderstandings, Meritet makes a journey from Alexandria to Jerusalem, ending up as an oddball saint of the new religion that will eventually become part of the mechanism of slavery in Haiti. Tied together somehow by Ezili, the three stories eventually coalesce into a centuries-spanning panorama of the cultural collision between Africa and Europe. Hopkinson renders the societies she portrays with careful attention to everyday details: the bustling brothel where Meritet works; the fearsome conditions of slavery on the sugar cane plantations; the decadent demimonde of Baudelaire’s Paris.
Sexy, disturbing, touching, wildly comic. A tour de force from one of our most striking new voices in fiction.