From Publishers Weekly
The lilting, metallic harmonies of steel drums and the musical rhythm of Trinidadian Creole patois are elegantly rendered by consummate Caribbean man-of-letters Lovelace (Salt) in this novel, published in England in 1979. As always, Lovelace is concerned with how West Indian men and women struggle to find their individual identities in the face of dehumanizing living conditions, and how they resist cultural assimilation. For two days a year, the festival-parade of Carnival allows struggling Trinidadians to forget their poverty and embrace the frenzy and glory that masquerade provides. For the hilltop shack communities that dot the outskirts of Port-of-Spain, Carnival takes on mythic proportions. The respect that hustler Aldrick gains for his portrayal of an intricately scaled dragon carries him through the year. But the old order is fading: aging Carnival queen Cleothilde is forced to give way to beautiful, free-spirited Sylvia; drummer Fisheye fights to preserve his pride; and corporate sponsors rush to profit from Carnival and do away with its old customs of warriorhood between rival bands in favor of a more tourist-friendly version of the festivities. Conflicts arise when whose who resist control by the corporations alienate neighbors by challenging the inevitable commercialization of Carnival. Kaleidoscopically colorful characters and a faithful ear help make this quest for personhood one of Lovelace's best works.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Distinguished Trinidadian novelist Lovelace writes fiction as syncopated, sinuous, and irresistible as the calypso music that punctuates the lives of his poor but proud characters. Here, as he did in the award-winning Salt
, Lovelace peers beneath the rigid structure of island society into the desiring hearts of men and women struggling for recognition, respect, and love. Carnival season has just begun in Calvary Hill, a Port of Spain shantytown, and Miss Cleothilda, the carnival queen, and Aldrick, the dragon king, try to concentrate on creating their elaborate costumes, but both are distracted by a young beauty named Sylvia. The queen senses a rival, and Aldrick, famous for his avoidance of work and marriage, feels love coming on. Conflict also drives Fisheye, a warrior without a cause whose restlessness infects his fellow drummers to the point that their steel bands become veritable street gangs, and Pariag, the only Indian on the Hill and the most ambitious and innocent of the lot. As Lovelace masterfully choreographs the dance of each of his finely drawn characters, he reveals the conundrums not only of Caribbean life but of the human condition itself. Donna Seaman