Talking Location With author Leigh Russell – YORK
Ten Great Books set in THE CARIBBEAN
21st December 2020
The Caribbean is the latest place for us to visit in our ‘Great books set in…’ series. Ten great books set in The Caribbean.
‘Nowhere else is it possible to experience, in such a small area, so many different cultures and social conditions, such diverse vegetation, and such varied landscape as in the Caribbean‘ – Leonard Adkins
‘There is something fresh and crisp about the first hours of a Caribbean day, a happy anticipation that something is about to happen, maybe just up the street or around the next corner‘ – Hunter S. Thompson
Here are ten books to read that will immerse you in The Caribbean, on different islands and all with very different characters and stories to tell….
Golden Child by Claire Adam – TRINIDAD & TOBAGO
Rural Trinidad: a brick house on stilts surrounded by bush; a family, quietly surviving, just trying to live a decent life.
Clyde, the father, works long, exhausting shifts at the petroleum plant in southern Trinidad; Joy, his wife, looks after the home. Their two sons, thirteen years old, wake early every morning to travel to the capital, Port of Spain, for school. They are twins but nothing alike: Paul has always been considered odd, while Peter is widely believed to be a genius, destined for greatness.
When Paul goes walking in the bush one afternoon and doesn’t come home, Clyde is forced to go looking for him, this child who has caused him endless trouble already, and whom he has never really understood. And as the hours turn to days, and Clyde begins to understand Paul’s fate, his world shatters – leaving him faced with a decision no parent should ever have to make.
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James – JAMAICA
Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2015
Seven gunmen storm Bob Marley’s house, machine guns blazing. The reggae superstar survives, but the gunmen are never caught.
From the acclaimed author of The Book of Night Women comes a dazzling display of masterful storytelling exploring this near-mythic event. Spanning three decades and crossing continents, A Brief History of Seven Killings chronicles the lives of a host of unforgettable characters – slum kids, one-night stands, drug lords, girlfriends, gunmen, journalists, and even the CIA. Gripping and inventive, ambitious and mesmerising, A Brief History of Seven Killings is one of the most remarkable and extraordinary novels of the twenty-first century.
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys – DOMINICA & JAMAICA
A prequel to Jane Eyre, telling the story of the Creole heiress Antoinette, the “mad woman in the attic”.
Born into the oppressive, colonialist society of Jamaica, white Creole heiress Antoinette Cosway meets a young Englishman who is drawn to her innocent beauty and sensuality. After their marriage, however, disturbing rumours begin to circulate which poison her husband against her. Caught between his demands and her own precarious sense of belonging, Antoinette is inexorably driven towards madness, and her husband into the arms of another novel’s heroine. This classic study of betrayal, a seminal work of postcolonial literature, is Jean Rhys’s brief, beautiful masterpiece.
The Comedians by Graham Greene – HAITI
Three men meet on a ship bound for Haiti, a world in the grip of the corrupt ‘Papa Doc’ and the Tontons Macoute, his sinister secret police.
Brown the hotelier, Smith the innocent American and Jones the confidence man – these are the ‘comedians’ of Graham Greene’s title. Hiding behind their actors’ masks, they hesitate on the edge of life. And, to begin with, they are men afraid of love, afraid of pain, afraid of fear itself…
Don’t Stop the Carnival by Herman Wouk – BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
It’s everyone’s dream: to leave behind the rat-race of the working world and start life all over again amidst the cool breezes, sun-drenched colours, and rum-laced drinks of a tropical paradise.
This is the story of Norman Paperman, a New York City press agent who, facing the onset of middle age, runs away to a Caribbean island to reinvent himself as a hotel keeper.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Herman Wouk, who himself lived on an island in the sun for seven years, draws on his own experiences to tell a story at once brilliantly comic and deeply moving about a man’s search for happiness, and for himself.
Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud – TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
Meet the Ramdin-Chetan family: forged through loneliness, broken by secrets, saved by love.
Irrepressible Betty Ramdin, her shy son Solo and their marvellous lodger, Mr Chetan, form an unconventional household, happy in their differences, as they build a home together. Home: the place where your navel string is buried, keeping these three safe from an increasingly dangerous world. Happy and loving they are, until the night when a glass of rum, a heart to heart and a terrible truth explodes the family unit, driving them apart.
Brave and brilliant, steeped in affection, Love After Love asks us to consider what happens at the very brink of human forgiveness, and offers hope to anyone who has loved and lost and has yet to find their way back.
The Other Side of the Mountain by Fiona Cane – HAITI
It’s 2001, and amidst the political turmoil in Haiti, three disparate lives collide: Yolande, an impoverished farmer desperately looking for the sister her abusive husband has sold into slavery; Maddy, an eager British journalist on her first overseas assignment, set on making a name for herself; and Clare, an ex-pat gynaecologist who’s devoted the past eight years to healing Haiti’s downtrodden women. Divided by language, lifestyle and personality yet all driven by painful memories buried in their pasts, the three women unite to search for the missing child. It’s a quest that takes them deep into the city’s underworld, where poverty is rife, black magic thrives and violence is king; a world in which appearances can be deceptive and where survival is by no means certain.
Surviving Raine by Shay Savage – THE CARIBBEAN
As the captain of a schooner catering to the elite on the Caribbean Seas, Sebastian Stark does his best to avoid any human encounters. Interacting with people isn’t his thing, and he prefers the company of a bottle of vodka, a shot glass, and maybe a whore. There’s no doubt he’s hiding from a checkered past, but he does well keeping everything to himself…
…until the night his schooner capsizes, and he’s stuck on a life raft with one of the passengers.
Raine’s young, she’s cute, and Bastian would probably be into her if he wasn’t suffering from alcohol withdrawal. As the days pass, DTs, starvation, and dehydration become the norm. Even the most closed person starts to open up when he thinks he’s going to die, but when she realizes their traumatic pasts are connected, it’s no longer the elements that have Bastian concerned.
He has no idea how he’s going to Survive Raine.
Another Sun by Timothy Williams – GUADELOUPE
On a plantation in the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, a man’s body is found in a pond, riddled with bullets. The victim is Monsieur Calais, a wealthy land-owner; within 24 hours, a suspect is arrested. Anne Marie Laveaud, a French-born judge who has recently been transferred to Guadeloupe, is called in to make a ruling. With a keen sense of compassion for the accused, she must navigate the world of Caribbean justice – very different from what she was used to in France – to confirm her suspicion that all is not as it seems
Black Rock by Amanda Smyth – TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
Celia’s mother died bringing her into the world – when one soul flies in, another flies out, her aunt Tassi says. So she lives in Black Rock, Tobago, with her cousins and Tassi’s second husband Roman, a man so sly he could crawl under a snake’s belly on stilts. Celia thinks he’s the devil, so when he does something that proves her right, she runs away to Trinidad and a new life in service.
We hope this has given you a taste for books with a Caribbean setting. Take a look at our database for more than 150 titles set here, and please feel free to add more!
Andrew and Tony for the TripFiction Team
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