House of Ashes review – Monique Roffey’s Caribbean coup d’etat

house ashes review

A violent episode in Trinidad’s recent history is the starting point for Roffey’s visceral tale of three people caught in the carnage, Lucy Scholes writes in this review for London’s Guardian.

Trinidad-born Monique Roffey draws on a bloody chapter in the country’s recent history for her new novel, House of Ashes – the attempted coup d’etat of 1990. Set in the City of Silk, the capital of her fictional Caribbean island of Sans Amen, Roffey’s novel tells the story of a similarly bungled takeover through the eyes of three people involved: Ashes, a reticent gunman; Aspasia Garland, the country’s environment minister who’s held hostage; and a disaffected street kid turned child soldier.

Told by their charismatic leader that they will be “making history”, the reality that awaits the men who storm the city’s House of Power in the name of reclaiming what is rightfully theirs from corrupt politicians is one of bloody, desperate carnage. Their lives entangled together in the barbed wire of history, Roffey’s three protagonists are forced to re-evaluate their beliefs as each of them learns to shoulder the responsibility for their actions. Roffey’s writing is raw and visceral and she thrusts her readers headlong into the very middle of the action, her pen as powerful as the butts of the guns shoved in her hostages’ backs.

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