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Book Review: Mr Loverman

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I was excited when my reading group chose this book. It looked intriguing and different. First of all, a WOC author, which is always good. As Celeste Headlee says, if you want to know the truth, listen to women of colour. Second, it's about a 74-year-old Antiguan-born Brit's journey of revealing to his family (wife, daughters, and grandson) his same-sex 50-year-long affair with his childhood sweetheart. Right up my alley.

I got my copy after we returned from Jamaica, un-for-tu-nate-ly. It would have been perfect reading it on the beach there, but it wasn't to be. And when I started reading it, I was discouraged. Because English is not my first language, all dialects and generally non-English words are difficult for me. I keep running to the dictionary which is very off-putting. The book is written from Barry's point of view, and so mostly in Patois. So my initial thought was, I'm never getting this read on time for the group meeting next week.

Well. The more I read, the more I was drawn into the story. Barry is such a fantastic MC. He's not necessarily likeable. In fact, several people in the reading group disliked him intensely. He's a chauvinist, and he's been cheating on his wife for 50 years, basically using her to cover up his sexual tendencies. And it's not like he was faithful to his lover, Morris. But he does stick around, providing for his family, which is more than other men in his community do. In other words, he's a well-rounded character. A human character. I love that.

Another thing I loved about the book is that it's very much a culture book in the sense that it takes you into the culture of West-Indies British people (that term is VERY confusing, by the way. None of them is from West India). The description of the food alone made me want to go back to Jamaica, or at least risk going back to that incredible market in Tooting where I was the only white person around.

The only thing I think could be better is that the other characters are not as well-rounded as Barry. Morris, for instance, begins as a reasonably well-rounded character but rather disappears further along in the story. And, several people in the reading group felt that Carmel's (Barry's wife) sections were a little forced. I tend to agree, although I thought it was an excellent lesson in writing voice (Carmel's sections are written in the second person, as she talks to herself) and the chapter about her postnatal depression simply broke my heart.

Bottom line: go read it. If only for the coming-of-age story of a 74-year-old black man.


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