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Mittelholzer's debut novel feels different than his other Caribbean novels. The first three novels of his that I read were "Shadows Move Among Them", "A Morning at the Office" and "Sylvia". These novels got me addicted to him to the point of driving me to purchase five of his still out of print novels, the best of these being "My Bones and My Flute". However, for some reason, I was not so enthusiastic about reading his debut novel. Why? Well, the vicissitudes of an East-Indian family didn't sound as intriguing as the imaginative plot of the other novels.
"Corentyne Thunder" does not have the wit of his later novels, but it does have the atmosphere that Mittelholzer knows how to create, and that I love. This debut novel is a slice of life in Guyana. The novel focuses on a set of East-Indian characters, mainly Ramgolall and his two daughters, in a intricate way.
While Mittelholzer's later novels have an aura of mystery or humor, I found "Corentyne Thunder" to be nostalgic. This novel suffused me with a veil of nostalgia that, even as I am writing and having already finished reading it, is still within me. Of course, this is not a bad thing, but if I had read this novel first, perhaps I would not have been so fascinated with his writing as I became with his later work. Why? Well, because of the lack of mystery and humor present in his later work.
Mittelholzer's favorite topic, as in his later work, is here: the different social classes that make up Guyana. It focuses mostly on rural Guyana, and while I was afraid that I would not understand the English spoken by the East-Indian characters, I quickly got used to it and figured out how it worked. I only thought it a bit odd how Geoffry, cultured and educated, would use a refined kind of English when he spoke with Kattree, who had no education at all. However, descriptions and the narration are in standard English, and are a pleasure to read due to his beautiful use of the language.
His descriptions of the savannah and weather can be a little elaborated, but they made me feel as if I was there. References to duppies and jumbies were also fun to read although, at times, I felt he was overusing them. However, I thought his references to music and literature were forced and unnecessary.
If I were to complain about anything it would be that some characters came and stayed, but then suddenly left, making me wonder about them. Geoffry had very interesting and current dilemmas, and I wonder how much of Edgar Mittelholzer was in him. He suddenly leaves the book and since his personality had different shades, and was the only character with depth, I wish he had stayed longer in the book, or that Mittelholzer had not waited for so long to develop him.
There's a lot in this book, when it comes to plot and sub-plots, that makes reading it worth it and entertaining, from beginning to end. There is first and unrequited love. There are Hindu festivals, and there's even a murder and trial case.
Am I glad that I read it? Well, this is my ninth Mittelholzer book, and I am still craving for more of his writing. I wish Peepal Tree Press would reissue more of his out of print books.