Trinidad, 1865. Michel Jean Cazabon returns home to be at his beloved mother’s deathbed. Life on the island seems very different after the freedoms of post-Revolutionary Paris, where his paintings have hung in the Louvre.
Despite the Emancipation Act, his childhood home is still in the grip of colonial power, its people riven by the legacy of slavery. Michel Jean finds himself caught between the powerful and the dispossessed. As an artist, he enjoys the governor’s patronage, painting for him the island’s vistas and its women; as a Trinidadian he shares easy wisdom and nips of rum with the local boat-builders. But domestic tensions and haunting reminders of the past threaten his equanimity. His fiery half-sister, Josie – the daughter of a slave – still provokes in him a youthful passion; his flirtatious muse, Augusta, tempts him as he paints her ‘for posterity’. Meanwhile, letters from his white, French wife and children remind him of their imminent arrival on the island.
Caught in the sweep of history and his own intimate dramas, Michel Jean paints the figures in the landscape, the dappled light as it falls through the bamboo grove.
About the Author
Lawrence Scott was born on a sugarcane estate in Trinidad. Three of his books have been listed for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. He divides his time between London and Port of Spain, Trinidad.
The novel draws parallels between race and sex in post emancipated Trinidad through the perspective of a Creole Trinidadian male, adding a fresh take on the period of transition in the Caribbean.