Black Sugar by Miguel Bonnefoy and Emily Boyce (translator)
|Black Sugar by Miguel Bonnefoy and Emily Boyce (translator)|
|Category: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Alex Merrick|
|Summary: Miguel Bonnefoy's command of sensual imagery and characterisation allows this too short novel to stand out. It feels as if you have lived amongst the three generations of the Otero family.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 112||Date: March 2018|
|Publisher: Gallic Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Miguel Bonnefoy's Black Sugar is a sensual epic chronicling three generations of the Otero family. The tale begins with the disappearance of Captain Henry Morgan's treasure and then illustrates the power this treasure holds over people. Multiple people become obsessed with finding this fabled treasure that has become an urban legend in the town in which the story is set.
Bonnefoy conjures sensual imagery, such as her skin was like crumpled paper, as thin as onion skin and they could see reddish smoke swirling up from the surrounding farms to mark the end of one harvest and the beginning of another. His use of the senses that evoke both the imagery and the themes of the novel remind one of Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Jean Rhys. Like Bonnefoy, these two authors utilise nature and the senses incredibly well.
However, elements of the novel are reminiscent of Marquez, almost copycat-esque. Bonnefoy, like Marquez, utilises the themes of unrequited love, fate, the unrelenting momentum of modernity and familial bonds. Now to compare any author to Marquez is naturally unfair. He is a Nobel Prize winner and his literary influence is felt everywhere. Bonnefoy brings his own voice to these Marquez elements and creates an entertaining and melancholic tale.
Bonnefoy has an appealing turn of phrase as well. He utilises language brilliantly with lines such as, the advantage of being poor… is you can only get richer and in a hangman's home… there's no talk of ropes. He is having such fun mastering his own style. Even though occasionally it comes across as self-indulgent, however that doesn't matter because it's just too good a read.
The narrative is told through a sagacious narrator with hardly any dialogue. This allows the tale to be told as if by a wandering minstrel. Someone who had happened to pass into town and told an old folk legend to an enraptured audience to earn his keep. Similar to the treasure of Captain Morgan within the story, the narrative style becomes steeped in legend and folklore.
The story is wonderfully told and the characters are all three dimensional with their own wants and needs. Though it could have easily been an extra two hundred pages. Everything happens too hastily, like a Caribbean storm, blown in from the sea, it affects everything and then is gone. If Bonnefoy had trusted his ability as an author and allowed the story to breathe more, it could have been an incredibly emotive story.
Black Sugar is a beautiful generational saga akin to One Hundred Years of Solitude or The House of the Spirits. Although at times it strays too close to the beats of these magnificent works, Bonnefoy never loses his own voice and continues to write with strokes of brilliant colours and sounds.
For further reading we can recommend Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Black Sugar by Miguel Bonnefoy and Emily Boyce (translator) at Amazon.com.
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