cover image The Night of the Rambler

The Night of the Rambler

Montague Kobbé. Akashic, $15.95 trade paper (250p) ISBN 978-1-61775-181-3

The pivotal moment in Anguilla’s fight for independence, as Kobbé tells it in his debut novel, was the uncertain night 16 Anguillans spent at sea in a 35-foot sloop, the Rambler, on their way to attack neighboring St. Kitts. The events of June 9, 1967, bookend a narrative that unspools the tiny Caribbean island’s history of subjugation. Anguillans, then subjects of the British associated state of St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, lived cut off from the world: no electricity, no telephone lines, no ports. Kobbé interweaves backstories of the chief populist leaders—the diplomatic Alwyn Cooke and the hot-tempered Rude Thompson—while capturing how news of the grassroots uprising spread from person to person “like a virus.” Colorful detours into native lore, such as a rich Dutchman’s fabled courtship of a local beauty, strike grace notes that echo Marquez. But Kobbé, who is Venezuelan by birth, falls short of another bestselling Hispanic novelist, Junot Diaz: this narrator’s heavy-handed foreshadowing and stilted interjections want for the linguistic verve of a Yunior. Even so, readers who stick with the Rambler as it drifts in the waves will be rewarded with the little-known tale of how the underdog country demanded its own place in the 20th century. (Sept.)