Lone Sun

Daniel Maximin, Author University of Virginia Press $35 (286p) ISBN 978-0-8139-1224-0
Caribbean radio journalist Maximin's first novel begins with the engaging image of young, aspiring poet Marie-Gabriel sitting between the ``thighs of the mango tree'' on her family's property on the island of Guadeloupe. But this ambitious work fails to live up to its promise of poetic grandeur. An assemblage of manuscripts-in-progress, documents and other correspondence, principally between Marie-Gabriel and Adrien, a native friend living in Paris, it aims to re-create in patchwork fashion an indigenous black history of the Caribbean, to recover all that has been ``denied to you by the well-meaning conspiracy determined to mold you into an alienated proper French happiness.'' The time span is broad: from the days of slavery through its abolition in 1789, Napoleon's invasion and the return of slavery, through WW II and Petainist rule, to 1962. The texts reveal the genealogies of a number of interrelated characters, while vacillating between present and past, and incorporating poignant tragedies that visit the population. Throughout, the correspondents--whose literary ambitions inspire them to collect and share both the notebooks of characters long dead and their own works--pontificate endlessly on Caribbean politics and the role of the black writer. Maximin is at his best in the few instances when he resorts to traditional narrative, such as the romantic first meeting Marie-Gabriel imagines between her mother and father--but these instances, unfortunately, are too rare to sustain the reader. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/01/1989
Release date: 10/01/1989
Hardcover - 286 pages - 978-0-8139-1237-0
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