by Amanda Smyth
Set in the 1960s in the beautiful Caribbean, this accomplished first novel tells the story of Celia, an orphan who lives with her Aunt Tassi and twin cousins in Black Rock, Tobago. Also living with them is Uncle Roman, the profligate second husband of Tassi ďa short skinny man who the villagers called Allah, because he thought he was God.Ē Celia is not taken in by him though and when an incident occurs to prove to her that he definitely is not God, she flees Tobago for Trinidad to take refuge with Aunt Sula, Tassiís kindly sister.
Poor Celia doesnít make it as far as Aunt Sula. She is taken ill en route and is helped by William, a young Trinidadian, who she met on the boat. William works for Dr Emmanuel Rodriguez in his impressive colonial home and asks Dr Rodriguez if he will help Celia. Rodriguez accordingly does: Celia recovers and he offers her a job looking after his two small children. She canít believe her luck.
Life with the Rodriguez family is good, though Mrs Rodriguez is fragile. She pines for her home in England and their dead first-born child Ė and she is wary of Celia.
Before long things become complicated and Celia finds herself trapped between love and duty. Meanwhile, she is reunited with Sula on the estate of Scottish colonist Joseph Carr Brown where she finds comfort and affinity.
Amanda Smyth writes with clarity and ease, evoking the intense luxuriance of the Caribbean while probing the complicated and often predatory relationship between master and servant.