cover image Even in Paradise

Even in Paradise

Elizabeth Nunez. Akashic, $27.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-61775-440-1

Nunez’s (Not for Everyday Use) novel riffs on a classic Shakespearean tale, but her handling of the setting and contemporary elements lift it above mere pastiche. Émile Baxter is the son of the most famous surgeon of Trinidad and, as it happens, is of partial African descent. His best friend Albert Glazal is from a wealthy Trinidadian mercantile family, whose Christian Syrian-Lebanese ancestors moved to the islands generations ago. Émile’s life also intersects that of Peter Ducksworth and his three daughters, a rich family of English stock: the eldest, Glynis, is Albert’s fiancée, while Émile is drawn to Ducksworth’s youngest, the vivacious Corinne. Glynis and Rebecca, the middle sister, are schemers, wanting their father’s land and his beautiful house for their own real estate plans. Émile remarks on parallels to King Lear repeatedly, but there is much more to unpack here. The issue of racism is woven throughout, as are regional problems such as access to Barbados’s beaches and poverty in Jamaica’s Tivoli Gardens. This is also a celebration of the arts, culture, and natural beauty of the islands. Shakespeare’s work is a tragedy, but for Émile “the future shimmers before [him] full of wondrous possibilities.” Nunez treats her source material with a deft touch, making this story impressive in its own right. (Apr.)