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A spare, bleak saga of two generations in the life of a Guyanese family struggling for respectability but unable to snatch any but the most fleeting moments of happiness. In the Heat of the Day (1993), the first of the novels and the only one previously published in the US, traces the declining fortunes of Sonny Armstrong and his wife, Gladys, as their quarrels with relatives, servants, and each other leave them sunk in a domestic hell worthy of a household Dante. One Generation follows their son Rohan, whose secure position in the civil service offers a promise of rescue from his parents' misery, but whose love for Indrani Mohammed, intensified by his fearful desire for his older sister Genetha, leads him to follow Indrani to a backwater village where he falls in love with Indrani's younger sister Dada even as Indrani's husband's family determines to get rid of him. Following Rohan's death -- a mystery the police never solve -- the focus shifts, in Genetha, to the last of the Armstrongs, who finds that every choice open to her -- the genteel suitor Michael or her brother's forbidden friend Fingers, life with the domineering aunts her father had antagonized or in the brothel run by the former servant he had slept with -- is equally poisoned. Genetha's one idyllic episode -- a trip to Morawhanna with Fingers and her neighbor Ulric -- ends when she discovers on her return that Fingers has sold her house out from under her. ""The individual is nothing. The family's everything,"" concludes Genetha's aunt Deborah, whose own thirst for retribution explains why her remark is such an ironically apt epigraph for the whole trilogy. Like the early D.H. Lawrence, Heath endows the familiar trials of this family with an elemental power, as if each were happening for the first time. The result is harrowing in its simplicity and cumulative force.

Pub Date: April 14th, 1994
Page count: 652pp
Publisher: Persia -- dist. by Braziller