The Prisoner of Paradise by Romesh Gunesekera **SPOILERS ALERT**

FINALLY this tiresome book is finished!

Romesh Gunesekera

I cannot tell you how relieved I was to reach the end of this book. I could not get into it AT ALL. There is so much I have to rant about but I will try to keep it short….

Firstly let me tell you what the book was about in a nutshell – with spoilers –

This is a book about a 19 year old girl (Lucy) from England who goes to live in Mauritius with her Aunt and Uncle after her father dies (leaving her nothing). Mauritius is full of racism and slaves, both convicts and other coloured slaves (Indian, African, etc) who are treated abysmally by the majority. English and French live on the island, but it has been taken over by the British. Lucy ends up meeting Don Lambodar who is a translator for an exiled Prince from India. She firstly thinks he is nice, then she hears him say some stuff about women, which is the typical cultural thinking back in those days, and she starts despising him. He has no idea why she is being snippy with him and she doesn’t say why (immature to say the least). There is an uprising which seems to consists of very few slaves, one of the people involved is killed and left all cut up to a pole as an example, and another is killed in a tornado. This tornado comes suddenly at the end of the book, wreaks some havoc and during this Lucy’s Aunt kills her Uncle because, as far as I can gather, he is sleeping with a black slave (there might be an underlying question of whether he touches the slaves young daughter too, but it is so cryptic that I have no idea).  Lucy goes to stay with another woman, Don goes to her, they get together, kiss and she drowns when she swims in the sea too close to the rough currents…..

So a couple of main peeves I had about this book…

  1. The characters – Firstly the main character (or one of the main characters), Lucy, was a PAIN IN THE ARSE quite frankly. And I am glad that she died (not that it was even a good death)…She was meant to be this 19 year old girl, but the way she “spoke” made her seem more like 40. The other characters just didn’t seem to work. I felt nothing for them and I usually have some sort of feeling. I couldn’t keep up with the story, it flitted from character to character and for the life of me I can’t remember the name of most of the characters. There was a boy-servant (Muru?), Mr Amos (I think perhaps he was black?), Don (Indian) and Aunt Betty… The rest of the characters I cannot remember. There were too many characters with too much to say.
  2. The plot – Here is the blurb…. When Lucy arrives in Mauritius she is unprepared for the disquieting attractions of Don Lambodar, a young translator from Ceylon. Under the surface there is growing unease, it is 1825: Britain has wrested power from France and is shipping convict labour across the oceans. The age of slavery is coming to its messy end.”( Now…firstly there was nothing really about slavery coming to an end, if anything it was more about the popularity of slavery from what I could tell. There is an uprising in the second half of the book which to be honest, would have been better placed at the start of the book and then perhaps carried through the rest of the book. Basically there is a small uprising and one man is killed and has bits of his body cut off and another is killed by a tornado storm….and that was that. It makes a point on the book of saying that everything was back to normal as though nothing had happened. So not really the impending end of slavery? Secondly, it seemed like Romesh was trying to add in some romance between Lucy and Don but it was disappointed (as I have seen many people have said), nothing happened for a long time, just a lot of bickering and then in the end they kiss and she drowns….that may seem like I am exaggerating about the speed of the realisation that they are meant to be together and then her terribly boring death, but I’m really not.

I do have to say that I did find the descriptive writing of Mauritius was delightful. I could really picture the place in my head, the  “dazzling light spilling from the sky“, the “picturesque” town with its “fretwork of gardens and frothy green boulevards, the neat white squares of porticoed buildings facing the wide blue satin sea“. I could even picture the grand house that ended up belonging to Lucy’s Uncle and Aunt, with all its marble. This was without a doubt the best thing about this book.

You may think I am slating this book, but I have to stay true to my feelings about any book I read. The idea is a good one, but it felt too rushes. I would only recommend this book to people who like Romesh’s other novels. I couldn’t, with conviction, recommend this to people who like romance, or people who like history. There wasn’t enough of either of those genres in the book.

If any of you reading this have read this book and disagree with me then please leave comments and tell me what you got from the book, I would love to know, maybe it might enlighten me!

I have now started reading an ARC of “The Chilsbury Ladies Choir” by Jennifer Ryan. All I will say right now is that I am LOVING it, but watch this space…. 😀


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