A Kind of Eden by Amanda Smyth
|A Kind of Eden by Amanda Smyth|
|Category: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Lesley Mason|
|Summary: It's not just the English weather that ex-police officer Martin Rawlinson is looking to escape, when he takes a job in Trinidad. He might be kidding himself and his family that it is to pay for the school fees post-redundancy, but he settles into island life too fully for that to be the whole story. When his wife and daughter visit for the holidays, his self-constructed paradise starts to self-destruct. Literary beauty with a touch of the thriller. Or the other way about.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 246||Date: July 2013|
|Publisher: Serpents Tail|
Martin Rawlinson has escaped from the cold dreary English weather to the exotic heat and exotic women of Trinidad. He might have a wife and a daughter back home, but home is a long way away and here is the young and beautiful Safiya.
She's a journalist and could easily have just dismissed him as some sad old white guy, but somehow she didn't. Somehow they talked, and walked, and she showed him the real Trinidad and he fell in love with her, and with her home.
And because he was kind and gentle and makes love with a passion, but maybe most because he also fell in love with the islands, she fell in love with him. There had been a Canadian a few years back, but he wouldn't stay, and she wasn't going anywhere and so...
So now Martin is looking to renew his contract and stay on the island and is putting off telling his good wife Miriam about both the contract and his lover.
He knows that he has been putting off visits to the island by his wife and daughter. He knows that when he went home at Christmas he was distant and distracted, but nobody seemed to notice or to comment.
He's hoping he can get his new contract signed and then, come Easter maybe, he can do what needs to be done.
But it's only February and Miriam has other ideas. She and Georgia will fly out just for a few days. It will be Beth's birthday soon. They always celebrate her birthday, even though she's not with them any more – he'd had to miss it last year because he couldn't get home. This year they will come to him.
Of course, he can't risk them bumping into Safiya, or people who know about him and Safiya but not about his family. Easy. He rents a villa on Tobago. Close enough for jazz, and far enough for safety.
Except safety is something Martin Rawlinson really should know doesn't exist on the islands. Not for rich tourists. Not away from the enclaves. After all, he is working as a civilian consultant for the local law enforcement. Law enforcement. It is a term that doesn't mean much in the islands. Forensics labs, DNA databases? Come on, they barely have police cars on Monday mornings when not all of those loaned to mates over the weekend haven't yet been returned. The idea of taping an interview was astonishing.
It's not that the local police don't see the value of these things so much as a reluctance to see anything good coming from the old colonial overlords. It might be the way you do things in England, is the common refrain. Things are different here. Indeed. Different. Not necessarily better. It doesn't help that sometimes their ways might just work... having a drink (or several) on duty in the local bar, might just elicit more intel than a full-scale door-to-door enquiry.
In his short time, Rawlinson has learned that he has to meet them half-way if he is to achieve anything at all.
More than that – he has come to love the people and their way of life, come to understand that it isn't as easy or as simple as it looks, to understand (if not necessarily agree with) the way they think. He has, ultimately, come to trust them.
Which means he has forgotten the dangers for the rich, white, tourist.
He might have started to blend in, but Miriam and Georgia, slim and beautiful and pale-skinned... they could easily be a temptation.
Mistakes are made and disaster ensues...
Smyth's book is like night falling at the edge of the waters so beautifully echoed on the cover... the brightness and hope of new love, a gathering golden period before darkness envelopes everything... a darkness that surprises even though you know it must come, a darkness that changes your view of the brightness lost. It's a tale of love grown old and lost, a tale of the power of family to hold you (not always as strong as we'd hope), the power of 'home' but also of the 'new'.
We're often reminded in books that people do not change. But of course, we know that some of us do. Optimistic adventurers are ground down and seek the comfort and safety of the nest, while home-birds grow bored and need, belatedly, to fly.
And maybe to try to moralise about it is wrong.
Part Trini herself Smyth clearly has a feel for the islands. She captures their haunting beauty as exquisitely as a tour-operator's angel. But she shares also their tension and poverty and ineffective socio-political systems and ultimate lawlessness.
If you loved the recent TV series Death in Paradise prepare to be shaken. This is the uglier side of that apparent idyll.
If you're booked to go to Trinidad & Tobago anytime soon, I'd save this one until you get back. If you're only kind of thinking about it, you might want to read it now.
Either way, put it on the list.
For more tales from the Caribbean we can recommend a trip to Jamaica with Huracan by Diana McCaulay
You can read more book reviews or buy A Kind of Eden by Amanda Smyth at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy A Kind of Eden by Amanda Smyth at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.