Book Review: “The Drowned Forest”

[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] Annie Hayter (Big Issue) reviews Angela Barry’s The Drowned Forest (Peepal Tree Press). See previous post New Book: The Drowned Forest.

[. . .] Angela Barry’s novel The Drowned Forest is a powerful exploration of Bermuda’s colonial legacy, deftly unpacking strata of class, race, privilege and education as they encircle the lives of characters living on the island. The story is mediated through several perspectives, centring around Genesis, a Black teenage girl, who has been through the care system and faces the prospect of incarceration after defending herself from a bully. 

Various figures from different cultures on the island come together to prevent this happening: philanthropist Tess, a white woman who has inherited hideous wealth (and guilt) from her colonial forefathers; Lizzie, a snazzily dressed insurer, finding a home away from her Portuguese Catholic family; and Nina, a Black middle-class nurse in mourning, who is intent on ensuring that her charge keeps on the straight and narrow. As they collaboratively attempt to take care of Genesis, each woman appears hell-bent on shaping her to fit into their own definition of what a respectable young lady should be. 

Genesis offers perceptive, witty observations about her guardians’ foibles; her voice rings clarion-like throughout the narrative, evoking the ache of adolescent longing. Contending with the pressure of all the women’s expectations, Genesis tries to find her own path through the wilderness of growing up. She discovers how each character is coping with the inescapable grasp of Bermuda’s past upon their current reality. Her encounter with an ancient cedar root, unearthed from the ocean, becomes the embodiment of this truth. In this titular symbol of The Drowned Forest, Barry signals the perils of ignoring our history – and the climate crisis. She reminds us that our past is rooted in our present. [. . .] For full article, see https://www.bigissue.com/culture/books/book-reviews-still-born-by-guadalupe-nettel-and-the-drowned-forest-by-angela-barry

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