I have to admit, initially I did not expect this book to be so captivating but after the first few pages I was completely engrossed. The story takes place in a little island, quite like Saint Lucia. Earl G. Long has flawlessly penned the lifelines of each character in the villages and town, especially that of “Ti Ismene”.
Ismene L’Aube is born to Bede and his wife, who dies during childbirth. Bede’s sister then takes to caring for the girl and it is within this household that Ismene’s sexual adventures begin. She is a witty, sassy and beautiful child and these traits help her win hearts and cause trouble wherever she goes.
During Ismene’s early teenage years, her father dies and she is left in the care of one of his friends: Charlo Pardie and his family. She lives with them for a few years experiencing farm days, storms, church visits, La Rose festivals, infatuation, unforgettable sexual encounters and one of the sons losing his mind. Eventually she leaves the house and moves to the city where the highlight and defining moments of the story lie. Ismene lives one life during the day and a promiscuous one at night.
She later moves back to her father’s little house, which is rightfully hers. Ismene’s life has completely changed but the past continues to live on in the mouths of others although you feel a little sympathy for her, despite her promiscuity, as does every other character in the book. Ismene continues to live her life simply and seemingly without an ounce of concern for other people’s thoughts.
Long’s novel is filled with so much activity, so much drama and so much detail! His writing is easy to comprehend and follow, so that the story can be comfortably absorbed by your mind while exciting you.
I was particularly amazed with how openly immoral the themes were, but so sincere to local culture, from the types of settlements, occupations, weather and festivities to how men so blatantly leave their wives for the company of more interesting, younger women: “The news of Charlo’s whereabouts traveled as quickly as a cruel joke.”
The novel also creates a vivid picture of how corrupt and deceptive some “high class” or “religious” members of society can be: “She recognized two of her clients returning from receiving communion, their heads bowed in massive piety over clasped hands. She was surprised at the second man, he was one of her best clients . . .”
And accompanying these sober messages is a little humour and everyday island life activities.
The detail in Long’s writing reminds of and makes one feel Saint Lucia as it drives through the brutal awareness of reality.
Earl Long portrays true, refreshing Saint Lucian talent in this novel. It is definitely a must read!
By: Claudia Eleibox