Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Ti Marie-Valerie Belgrave

Ti Marie
Valerie Belgrave
iUniverse, Jan 2008, $18.95
ISBN: 9780595440429

By 1796 war seems to be island hopping across the Caribbean. So far Trinidad remains peaceful and quiet, but fears run deep that the hostilities will come here soon. Spaniard Don Diego de Las Flores owns Santa Clara cocoa plantation away from the thriving activities of thriving Santa Fe, but remains serene. He has two young children Jose and Juanita, but lost his wife just after she gave birth to their daughter to yellow fever. Yei the half breed medicine woman runs the household; she has two twin daughters, Carmen and Elena, sired by a white man. French political radical and expatriate Louis is the other member of the household as he tutors Jose.

English abolitionist Barry Wingate arrives at Santa Clara; he falls in love with Elena, who enjoys the passion and idealism of her suitor. However, the French Revolution comes to Trinidad dividing the ruling plantation owners between hostile republican and royalist groups. While France struggles, England takes control of the island and imposes a harsh slave code that upsets the locals and leads to violence.

TI MARIE is a fantastic look at Paradise Lost through a variety of characters representing the island’s social strata during a period in which the goings on in France has swept its way into the Caribbean and now Trinidad. For instance, Elena and Barry love one another with a hope for the future together (if they can communicate their feelings), but once the English arrive, their dream looks hopeless as his family would never accept a mutt like her. There is much more going on than described above as Valerie Belgrave provides a vivid landscape of late eighteenth century Trinidad through Free Blacks, slaves plantation owners, Europeans, and mixed blood, etc. as open hostilities cause havoc on the most southern Caribbean island.

Harriet Klausner

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