- Book: Love After Love
- Location: Trinidad and Tobago
- Author: Ingrid Persaud
When Betty Ramdin’s ghastly and abusive husband dies as a result of a fall down the stairs, she decides that it would be a good idea to take in a lodger. She invites her rather formal and old-fashioned colleague, Mr. Chetan, to move in with her and her son, Solo, and gradually the three begin to form an unconventional little family group. Love and respect grow over the years. Solo, in particular, forms a lasting bond with Mr. Chetan. But one night, the boy, now almost grown up, overhears his mother and Mr. Chetan talking. The secret she reveals turns Solo’s world upside down and, as a consequence, he runs away to New York to live with his father’s brother. There he finds himself in a desperate situation, isolated, vulnerable and desperately lonely, but absolutely determined not to return home.
Betty is utterly devastated by the loss of her son and focuses all her efforts on persuading him to come home. She is comforted in her loss by Mr. Chetan, who is struggling with his own problems and with a huge secret that he has kept from everyone. When this secret is finally revealed, it is with tragic consequences that come as a real shock to the reader.
Love after Love explores dark themes and doesn’t spare the reader the brutal truth about some of the worst of human traits – prejudice and cruelty – and the desperate choices we are all sometimes forced to make. But it is not all dark; it is often very funny. The novel is written in lively Trinidadian prose, full of wisecracks and humour and the novel’s events are viewed through the eyes of characters who often see the positive in even the most negative situations.
This book is packed with Trinidadian life and characters. It’s a complex cultural mix which Persaud skilfully conveys to the reader. On the positive side, there are the gossipy, nosy neighbours who support each other through thick and thin, wonderful food, music, sex – life lived to the full, but woven into this is a harsher reality – an island struggling to come to terms with a brutal past and an underlying prejudice that makes life very difficult for anyone who doesn’t conform to society’s norms.
Love after Love is an absolutely engrossing exploration of love in all its forms, both beautiful and brutal. It is peopled with wonderful fully realized characters who live on your head and heart long after the book is closed. This is an amazingly good debut novel. We shouldn’t be surprised. Trinidadian Ingrid Persaud won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2017 and the BBC Short Story Award in 2018. I’m sure Love after Love will be similarly successful.
Oh my goodness. What a read! Probably the best book I’ve read in years. No wonder there was such a bidding war over it.
Sheer delight from start to finish. Every ingredient you need in a good novel with knobs on.