RUM AND COCA-COLA by Ralph de Boissi‚re


Email this review


Set in Trinidad, as was Crown Jewel, 1981, this novel portrays the cultural intrusiveness of the American armed forces on the island when the US began building up defensive military bases in the early 1940s. Suddenly social and economic barriers, long preserved by the colonial order, start breaking down, and the possibility of securing lasting social reforms seems to fade as a sluggish colonial government grapples uneasily with the exigencies of the war emergency. De Boissi‚re portrays the peculiar mix of various national and ethnic sensibilities that define Trinidad at this juncture, including the impoverished and socially degraded blacks, the arrogant, monied Americans, and the more patronizing British who must, inevitably, yield the reins of authority in this, their finest hour. The author takes great pains to reconstruct the sense of a specific historical situation and its effects upon an ethnically diversified selection of characters: his chief protagonist, Fred, a black calypso singer and union leader; Indra, who yields her innocence (a major thematic concern for de Boissiere) to Wilbur Kemp, family man with wife and kids back home in the US; and Mopsy, a casualty of the ugly American whoring mentality, but who will always remain devoted to Fred in her heart. All in all, the book offers an invaluable glimpse of colonial and capitalist systems of exploitation from a Caribbean perspective, but suffers from being too schematic in its attempt to dramatize large historical issues through small human affairs.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1985
Publisher: Allison & Busby--dist. by Schocken