The Lagaloo's Apprentice, Rabindranath Maharaj's second novel, is an ambitious and slyly original novel about a Trinidadian immigrant's return to his homeland. Unlike many entries in the increasingly crowded field of immigrant fiction (a genre which is gradually becoming as convention-ridden as the rural Maritime novel or the New England white male novel), The Lagaloo's Apprentice is a deliciously subversive book that casts a skeptical eye on Canadian culture while simultaneously undermining the usual pieties of postcolonial fiction.
Maharaj's narrator is Stephen Sagar, an ethnically Indian Trinidadian who ekes out a living as a hack journalist in a suburb of Toronto. When Mr. Rampartap, a formerly influential Trinidad politician, invites him to return to the island and write his biography, Stephen skips out on his declining marriage and boards a plane, full of misplaced idealism. The culture he finds on his return both reinforces and shatters his youthful memories--the pastoral bliss that he had been expecting still exists, but it is tainted with corruption, violence, poverty, racism, and crass modernity. The first third of the book, in which Stephen has not yet relearned the knack of thinking like an islander, is set on Mr. Rampartap's crumbling plantation, complete with comical idiot-servants and a so-called madwoman in an outbuilding. This revision of Caribbean-gothic novels (such as Wide Sargasso Sea) is abandoned when Stephen leaves his writing job and moves to a seaside hotel, where he finds himself striking up an affair with an old flame--an affair that will draw him closer to his roots while leading him further into disillusion.
The Lagaloo's Apprentice is a sophisticated book, but it is also a disarmingly sincere one; Maharaj's accounts of love lost and rediscovered, nostalgia, and the loneliness of the repatriated outsider are delicately managed and wholly convincing. This is Maharaj at his very best. --Jack Illingworth
"Fascinating, satisfying....The Lagahoo's Apprentice is dense and rich, and the apprentice of the title [is] one of the most fully realized characters I've come across in fiction…. This is a very, very fine novel, wonderful reading for the women (and men) who've known a few lagahoos in their time." —Elizabeth Nickson, The Globe and Mail
"A satisfying delight…. It has a vivid sense of place, hilarious satire, Gothic mystery, [and] moments of wrenching poignancy." —The Toronto Star
"Maharaj's innumerable fresh and funny observations…define his style…. Sympathetic, canny, and very entertaining." —The Gazette (Montreal)
“In The Lagahoo’s Apprentice, Maharaj dares to paint a passionately honest portrait of the dark side of his sunny island home.” —The Vancouver Sun
“Observations are magnificently captured and enhance the mood of secrecy and gloom…. Maharaj is a delicate craftsman with a compelling style…The Lagahoo's Apprentice is an accomplished novel.” —National Post
“An ambitious work…There is depth and breadth in his writing, as well as the humour which marked [his] first two books.” —Winnipeg Free Press
“Vivid, memorable…. Against [a] bewitching, deftly conjured backdrop, Maharaj brings on a procession of angry, equivocal, caustically funny Trinidadian monologists.” —Quill & Quire
“The Lagahoo’s Apprentice is a fine performance by a talented writer…Maharaj brings to the page an unsentimental world-weariness and a voice of great assurance. He’s a writer with things to say.” —The Edmonton Journal