Thank you to Antonia Whitton of Headline Books for the opportunity to read and review a proof copy of this debut novel. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.
A debut novel in the tradition of Zadie Smith and Marlon James, from a brilliant Caribbean writer, set in Barbados, about four people each desperate to escape their legacy of violence in a so-called “paradise.”
In Baxter Beach, Barbados, moneyed ex-pats clash with the locals who often end up serving them: braiding their hair, minding their children, and selling them drugs. Lala lives on the beach with her husband, Adan, a petty criminal with endless charisma whose thwarted burglary of one of the Baxter Beach mansions sets off a chain of events with terrible consequences. A gunshot no one was meant to witness. A new mother whose baby is found lifeless on the beach. A woman torn between two worlds and incapacitated by grief. And two men driven by desperation and greed who attempt a crime that will risk their freedom — and their lives.
When we think of Barbados, many of us will think of a tropical paradise as the picture above shows (thanks to our local Hays Travel agent for sharing this picture a couple of days ago).
However after reading this emotional, hard-hitting debut novel by Cherie Jones, I have visited a dark and frightening island, full of violence and a fight for survival.
We discover how Lala ended up living with her husband Adan, despite her grandmother’s attempts to keep her safe from the violence that blighted her own marriage and the life of Lala’s mother. The story looks at how there is a circle of violence, for each generation to endure. The book isn’t a comfortable read, because it include rape, domestic violence, and murder but is compelling – will Lala be able to escape this life she has been trapped in? I had to keep reading to find out what would happen next, as I was quickly drawn into lives of the characters.
This is a no spoiler review, so I recommend reading the book to find out what happens to Lala, Adan and the other residents at Baxter Beach. I look forward to reading more by Cherie Jones in the future.
Cherie Jones is a lawyer based in Barbados. She won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 1999. She then studied Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam in 2015, where she won both the Archie Markham Award and the A.M. Heath Prize. In 2015 she was also awarded a full fellowship from the Vermont Studio Centre. A collection of inter-connected stories set in a different small community in Barbados won the third prize in the Frank Collymore Endowment Awards in 2016