cover image Indigo, Or, Mapping the Waters: Or Mapping the Waters

Indigo, Or, Mapping the Waters: Or Mapping the Waters

Marina Warner. Simon & Schuster, $21.5 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-70156-7

The award-winning British novelist ( The Lost Father ) and feminist critic ( Monuments and Maidens ) produces a tour de force with this lavishly imaginative and sophisticated work. Invading and colonizing The Tempest , she restores Sycorax, Shakespeare's ``blue-eyed hag,'' to power on an indigo-producing Caribbean island at the time of its 17th-century ``discovery'' by the British. While Prospero remains unidentified, Caliban and Ariel are her foster children; Miranda is born three centuries later in WW II London, a descendant of the island's British conqueror. But invasion--literary, political, sexual--constitutes only one of many themes. An epigraph, from Derek Walcott's Omeros , begins, ``Men take their colors as the trees do from their native soil''; this novel's sections, named after colors (like the novel itself), take their hues from Warner's ineffably sensuous descriptions of the island, suggesting a non-chronological approach to historical narrative--the indigo-stained Sycorax's way of seeing. Into this already lush ground, Warner introduces the gripping, cannily rendered story of Miranda and her attempts to address a problematic psychological legacy and to participate in establishing a new order. Consistently inventive, complex in its implications, this is an altogether dazzling achievement. (Richard Wiley's novel Indigo , published by Dutton, is reviewed in this issue.) (Sept.)