cover image Prospero's Daughter

Prospero's Daughter

Elizabeth Nunez, . . Ballantine/One World, $24.95 (316pp) ISBN 978-0-345-45535-2

Nunez (Bruised Hibiscus ; Grace ) critiques colonialist assumptions about race and class in this ambitious reworking of The Tempest , set in her native Trinidad in the early 1960s. Dr. Peter Gardner (the Prospero figure) arrives on the island with his baby daughter after a botched medical experiment in England made him an outlaw. The novel's Caliban is Carlos, a mixed-race orphan whose house on an outlying island the doctor steals. Gardner teaches the boy biology, astronomy, music—"an exclusively European education," Carlos later reflects—but his natural brilliance far surpasses anything the doctor can impart. Inevitably, Carlos and Gardner's daughter, Virginia (Miranda), fall in love; the doctor, in a paroxysm of rage at the thought of a sexual union between his daughter and a dark-skinned man, accuses Carlos of attempted rape. As the criminal charge is investigated, Nunez reveals Gardner to be the real criminal—not only toward Carlos, but also toward his native servant, Ariana (Ariel), and Virginia herself. With its strong themes and dramatic ironies, this story should speak for itself; Nunez, however, overexplains her material, forecasting plot developments and leaning, at times, toward didacticism. But while her portrait of demonic scientist Gardner remains superficial, readers will find her love story—which has a refreshingly happy ending—very sensitively told. (Feb.)