Still catching up with those reviews, one Japanese book to go then two more will get finished by the end of the month but will seep over into next month – can’t be helped. Have you been reading up a storm in February? It’s nearly time for a new State of the TBR photo, too, and looking at this one, I have actually changed the beginning of the front shelf a bit, and might be able to squeeze a few more birthday books on to the end. I’m getting there!

So, a great book now that I bought when I thought I didn’t want to read “Girl, Woman, Other” (spoiler alert: I did read it anyway) because it was “in poetry” (it wasn’t, really).

Bernadine Evaristo – “Mr Loverman”

(29 September 2019, charity shop, Penzance)

An astoundingly good book which I absolutely loved and which will probably be a book of the year for me. Elderly Antiguan Barry is coming to a crossroads – does he stick it out in his soured marriage or commit to his lifetime soulmate and lover, Morris (this isn’t a spoiler, it’s the book’s reason for being and is mentioned in the blurb on the back).

In a series of flashbacks, some in that same semi-poetic style of “Girl, Woman, Other” that I bought this to avoid (ha!), we see the history of Barry and Carmel’s marriage and their wider context both back home in Antigua, in the group of people who came over to England with them, and the community in which they settled. There’s a deep, forgiving and often very funny exploration of the effect of immigration on both the immigrants and their hosts. It was lovely to read about Carmel and her group of friends developing through fifty years of their lives, and also the next and further generations and how they’re affected by the family dynamics.

There are some delicious surprises in the novel, and I’m glad Carmel was given her voice in her own chapters (having read GWO, I wouldn’t have expected anything different, but Evaristo occupies the elderly gay men just as confidently as she occupies Carmel), and it could move me, make me laugh and bring a tear to my eye in the space of a few pages. Barry’s shopping list for his grandson’s visit is genius, and his and Morris’ late arrival on London’s gay scene awkward, charming and moving. An excellent book which does good in the world and opens up vistas on the Caribbean immigrant experience that it feels to me are rarely spoken about.