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Novel set in Venezuela (with beautiful prose)

1st March 2018

Black Sugar by Miguel Bonnefoy, novel set in Venezuela (translated by Emily Boyce).

Bonnefoy’s very slim story begins with privateer Henry Morgan’s demise and the loss of his huge hoard of treasure which then lies buried under the Venezuelan rainforest as the country develops over it.

Novel set in Venezuela

Centuries later the Otera family farm sugar cane in this remote corner of the world. Ezequiel and Candelaria live a simple, contented life respecting the land and the traditions around them. Their only child, Serena, leads a lonely, isolated life wandering in the rainforest, admiring, studying and cataloguing the wonderful plants she finds. Being slender and beautiful, she is pursued by many young men but none of them seem to be able to offer her anything worthwhile. And then one day, a stranger appears in the village. He is Severo Bracamonte and he has come in quest of the long-buried treasure of Henry Morgan. The story continues to follow the fortunes of this family through succeeding generations and explores their relationship with the land as the pressures of modern life begin to affect their way of life. As time moves on, we are never allowed to forget the buried gold beneath the surface of the rainforest, and repeated attempts are made to locate the hoard.

This little novel is rich in sensuous imagery and wonderful description and this is its real merit. Bonnefoy recreates the rainforest for the reader in exquisite detail, particularly in the opening chapter where he describes the rainforest devouring the remains of Morgan’s ship and its contents. The author also provides detailed insight into the life of a sugar-cane grower and rum-maker in those early days. There is no doubt that Bonnefoy has the utmost admiration for his country and the sense of the place – its history, tradition and physical environment is wonderfully conveyed.

Black Sugar is so short and pared down that it does read more like a fable than a novel. Sweeping through centuries of Venezuelan history means that events are often hastily dealt with, there is very little in terms of dialogue and the characters are only thinly sketched. There is a lot of symbolism in the novel, clearly intended to convey Bonnefoy’s message – that true treasure lies in appreciating simple things like nature and not in the pursuit of material wealth. There is a real sense of what is lost in the cause of progress. Bonnefoy’s prose, beautiful always, is at its very best when describing the majesty of an ancient tree or when bringing to life a traditional fiesta.

I would have liked to have seen more character development, for they have the potential to be interesting and original and it’s hard to avoid the thought that if he had allowed himself to linger a little more over characters, emotions and events, he would have produced a much richer and more satisfying read.

Ellen for the TripFiction Team

The book is published on 15th March 2018 and we will be offering a giveaway with 5 copies shortly! Keep your eyes pealed.

Miguel Bonnefoy is not currently on Social Media.

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  1. User: Janine Phillips

    Posted on: 04/03/2018 at 4:24 pm

    This sounds interesting


  2. User: Jessica Norrie

    Posted on: 01/03/2018 at 4:05 pm

    Oh I am looking forward to this. Assuming its translated from French?


    1 Comment

    • User: tripfiction

      Posted on: 01/03/2018 at 4:54 pm

      Yes, it’s in English! Phew!