cover image Bruised Hibiscus

Bruised Hibiscus

Elizabeth Nunez. Amistad Press, $24.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-56743-065-3

Against a backdrop of 1950s Trinidad, Nunez (When Rocks Dance) excavates and reshapes real-life incidents in island history, particularly a gruesome murder, to construct a thoughtful critique of race, gender and class relations in that Caribbean land. The narrative focuses on two women, both native Trinidadians, one of English descent, childhood friends grown apart only to be reunited after the body of a slain white woman washes up in Freeman's Bay. Rosa and Zuela meet again by chance as each makes a pilgrimage to an Our Lady of Fatima shrine in response to the murder. The suspicions, hate and resentments unleashed in the region by the discovery of Paula Inge's body are multiplied when her husband, an Indian doctor, is fingered as the killer. According to Rosa's oppressive husband, Cedric, the murder resulted from a ``man-woman'' problem, but by exploring the histories and motivations of her principal characters, Nunez relates the killing to wider social issues, uncovering the intricacies of racial hate and mistrust that had brewed for generations in colonial Trinidad, perversely manifesting in self-hate and acts of sexual dominance. The author's prose is seductively fluid throughout, and her diggings into the creolized landscape of Trinidad are at times fascinating, but her depictions of Chinese and African Caribbean men often embody the very myopia that she takes to task elsewhere. Her casting of a number of male characters as rapists-suffering from castration anxiety, to boot-only subverts her otherwise insightful and lyrical investigation into postcolonial patriarchy. (Nov.)