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Soucouyant [Paperback]

David Chariandy
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 25 2007

Finalist, Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction
Longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize
Longlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
Winner, ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award (GOLD), Literary Fiction
Shortlisted for Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize (BC Book Prizes)
Shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book
Shortlisted for City of Toronto Book Award

Shortlisted for the Amazon.ca/Books In Canada First Novel Award
Shortlisted for the ReLit Award, Best Novel
Shortlisted for One Book, One Vancouver
Featured on CBC's "Between the Covers"
Now in its 4th printing

A soucouyant is an evil spirit in Caribbean folklore, and a symbol here of the distant and dimly remembered legacies that continue to haunt the Americas. This extraordinary first novel set in Ontario, in a house near the Scarborough Bluffs, focuses on a Canadian-born son who despairingly abandons his Caribbean-born mother suffering from dementia.

The son returns after two years to confront his mother but also a young woman who now mysteriously occupies the house. In his desire to atone for his past and live anew, he is compelled to imagine his mother's life before it all slips into darkness―her arrival in Canada during the early sixties, her childhood in Trinidad during World War II, and her lurking secret that each have tried to forget.

Luminously poetic, Soucouyant marks the arrival of a major new literary talent in Canada.



German-language rights sold to Suhrkamp


French-language rights sold to Editions Zoe


Albanian-language rights sold to Shkupi (Macedonia)


Film option sold to Ian Harnarine and Jon Malkiel
(Arsenal Pulp Press)

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Said to wear the skin of an old woman by day and take the form of a wandering fireball by night-sucking the blood of her victims-the specter of the Soucouyant haunts Adele, the Trinidad-born mother at the center of Vancouver novelist Chariandy's debut. Her story is narrated by her unnamed son, 15, who is growing up Canadian suburb with his mother, his elder brother and his South Asian-descended father, Roger, as Adele slides into early-onset dementia. Within 40 pages, Roger is killed in an industrial accident, and the narrator's brother, an aspiring poet, leaves home after Adele ceases to recognize him. After the narrator himself tries to leave but returns, he finds Adele now cared for by a dubious caretaker named Meera. In an embedded narrative, Chariandy unravels the hidden tragedies of Adele's youth, which included an encoutner with the spectre of the book's title. As the narrator seeks a sense of his family's history and an understanding of what his mother's Soucouyant experience actually amounted to, he grows closer to Meera, who brings baggage of her own. Adele's, Meera's and the narrator's relationships with their mothers intersect affectingly in this haunting coming-of-age story.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Chariandy pulls off achingly beautiful prose, the kind of writing that you want to read aloud to have the words roll around on your tongue, reminiscent of Arundhati Roy's poetic language in The God of Small Things. Some of the passages simply take your breath away with their trenchant observations.
Vue Weekly (Edmonton)

This elegant and accomplished book strikes me as Southern in its historical preoccupation with racism, violence, and dispossession, and the impact of these things on contemporary experience.... This is a very successful novel, partly due to an unerring consistency of tone, which is eerie and melancholic, but also due to Chariandy's tender portrayal of Adele, whose exuberant spirit, even in fragile, deepest madness, is never entirely extinguished. Chariandy is an observant, eloquent writer.
―Donna Nurse, Toronto Star

This is an electrifying novel by an extremely gifted writer. Soucouyant is about personal history but it is also much more than that. It is about time and place and the individual's quest for a vantage point between the new world and the old. Soucouyant bridges geographic, cultural, and generational gaps, and it is 'told' with great beauty and sensitivity towards loss and pain that is extremely rare. The writing itself is of the highest order. This is a novel that will remain with readers for a long time.
―Alistair MacLeod (Alistair MacLeod)

David Chariandy is a brilliant young writer whose novel, Soucouyant, is tender and beautiful, but also as tough and craggy and precipitous as the Scarborough Bluffs where it is set. Soucouyant is about the disintegration of a mother's life, witnessed and described by her son with a compassionate accuracy, a man in the drifting soul of a woman. With careful brushstrokes and symphonic imagination, the author reveals to us the crises of filial love, of multicultural society, of language itself. The resulting narrative is magnificent.
―Austin Clarke (Austin Clarke)

Chariandy has created a breathtaking panorama of two lives and the ways they've shaped each other. Tight, expansive, poetic, and true to the realities of presenile dementia, Chariandy's world is brutal, sympathetic, and beautiful.
See Magazine

David Chariandy fully inhabits his story, his authorial labours surefooted and invisible. His closing chapter reprises that authenticity, revealing childhood horrors that shock us to a final understanding.
The Globe & Mail

A haunting coming-of-age story.
Publishers Weekly

Not many books have re-read appeal, at least not to a critic. But after finishing David Chariandy's Soucouyant, I returned to the beginning and started all over again, finding renewed pleasure in each lyrical line.... Chariandy's heart-wrenching tale of a son trying to reconnect with a mother who has sunk deep into the mysterious nowhere land of Alzheimer's leaves a deep imprint upon the soul.... The texture of his prose is silken, his phrasing melodic.
Montreal Gazette

Soucouyant moves fluidly between past and present. Chariandy's writing is filled with striking details, moments both humorous and poignant and solid narrative pacing.... The demons that come to life in this powerful story of remembrance will seem familiar if you've ever tried to make amends for past errors, or loved someone through the anguish of forgetting.
Vancouver Sun

Soucouyant pulses with life and vigour, even as it breaks under the weight of age and sorrow. Chariandy writes with a rich clarity that never feelscluttered, an elliptical approach to both characterization and storytelling that feels utterly natural and unmannered. Rooting the novel in both the domestic and the fabulous, he avoids the pitfalls of each; in weaving the disparate strands together, he is able to explore the deep mysteries at the heart of families and individuals to find the truth at their core. It's a delicate balancing act, and Chariandy never falters. The result is a novel that's impossible to predict, and impossible to pin down. To read it is to be reminded of the power of writing, of storytelling, of lives laid bare, in all their secrets and mysteries, on the page.
National Post

A striking, darkly beautiful literary debut.
Uptown (Winnipeg)

A mature, subtly engrossing work that offers a depiction of early onset of dementia that is both compassionate and true.
Ottawa Citizen

A frightfully imaginative yet psychologically astute novel.
Winnipeg Free Press

A deeply moving debut novel..... Soucouyant may be subtitled "a novel of forgetting," but it will stay with you for a long time.
Vancouver Review

The novel's charm lies in Chariandy's ability to convey tenderness, heartache, and humour.
Prairie Fire

Chariandy layers his story, looking at issues of race and punching up the text with descriptions so delicate and perfect that readers may actually find themselves remembering moments from their own lives.
Rain Taxi Review of Books

At times tangled and night-sick and at others hilariously lucid, Soucouyant is a fast, true read that leaves an indelible impression.
This Magazine

As far as I'm concerned, Soucouyant is the best novel of 2007.... It's a crisp, tightly written novel, one that presents its narrative with a careful ear towards perfection. Chariandy makes sure that every note sounds right. It is a very readable, teachable novel, and I think that we should expect great things from him in years to come.
Canadian Literature

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderfully written May 16 2014
By Sarah
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book was pretty different than anything I have read before but it is really interesting and captivating. I would recommend this read, excellent writer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Soucouyant Jan. 29 2008
Format:Paperback
Poetic. You not only feel for the characters, you feel for an entire family, a community, a nation, a race and a gender. What makes good truly good? What makes evil? I recommend this to anyone.
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Diversity personified! The Great Canadian Novel! Nov. 17 2007
Format:Paperback
EGADS! Shapechanging voodoo hags and poet-professor sons -- immigrant songs of the Caribbean cross-faded with academic viewpoints and Vancouver Lululemon clothes (would you like soy or seaweed underwear?) -- Chariandy must be the most complete package of postcolonial memoir-fiction-manifesto going! Wow! I've never seen such an ensemble performance that hits all the right buttons. I'm so pleased to hear that it's acceptable again to describe the rum soaked coasts of Trinidad in terms of archaic superstitions, transformed by a Canadian ID card. Shiver me timbers and can(n)on balls across the treasure chest map of house, home and political prose! Sand, sun, sangria, and santeria! Trinidad! Tenure, trophies, theses, and transnationalism! The best of both worlds! At least our poet-professor hero didn't get tasered. The accent changes but the old hearth does not! A tour-de-force from the hefty genre of cross-cultural place changing. Expect a sequel! Many of them! All very readable and cultural. Guaranteed to cure guilt ridden liberals. Expect multiple award nominations! Homey Barbapapa! Ahoy and hoorah!
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3 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Take a pass Aug. 24 2008
Format:Paperback
I decided to read this book after it was nominated for a Canadian fiction award. I read the book - cover to cover - and was left scratching my head as to why this book was even nominated in the first place.

Yes the novel covers those things which some would deep worthy topics - dementia, new immigrants to Canada, racism - but the story itself is not all that great. At the end of the novel I was left scratching my head, wondering why I read this book in the first place. There was no "wow, that was a good use of my time" kind of feeling. And which so many new and good books out there, I kind of wish I hadn't wasted my time on this book.

For the un-initiated, the book deals with a son who returns home to learn that his mother is suffering from severe dementia and how he copes with it. The story serves as a launching pad for the author to talk about immigration issues and how Canadians reacted to new comers to the country.

My advice; skip this novel. There are plenty of other good Canadian books out there.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent diasporic narrative May 7 2011
By loveroflit - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
David Chariandy's book is true , honest and a page-turner. Beautiful language negotiation between the Trinidad Creole and Canadian English.He carries the reader through space and time. The characters are complex yet easy to relate to ...Chariandy succeeds in avoiding any kind of fixity in his politics. Only con with this novel ..too short . Leaves the reader wanting more..this novel marks a new discourse...a must read for all Caribbean readers and for those who are not? a great start to something new!DON'T BORROW IT, BUY IT ...YOU'LL WANT YOUR OWN COPY!
3.0 out of 5 stars OK April 12 2014
By lover of Poetry - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book was ok. Its an easy read if you are from the Caribbean. If not the parts that are not written in standard English might take rereading to understand. Didnt like the ending. To each his own happy reading.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Definitely Illuminating March 19 2014
By Anna Domestico - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A book that considers implications of memory and dementia, and what a son could be left with when his history begins to fade away.
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