30+ Unforgettable Books by Caribbean Writers - Book-aneers of the Caribbean

From rain-forested volcanic islands, to low-lying coral keys, the Caribbean is a richly diverse region - geographically, historically, linguistically and culturally. And the books featured in this collection showcase some of our most-loved writers from - or deeply connected to - the Caribbean. These writers are the true "book-aneers" of the Caribbean, if you'll excuse the pun - skilled swashbucklers of words and ideas.

Jamaica is blessed with an abundance of world-class contemporary writers, among them Nicole Dennis-Benn, whose novel Patsy explores immigration, motherhood and sexuality with shimmering power. Marlon James is another exceptional Jamaican writer whose work has boundless scope, from the women’s slave rebellion recounted in The Book of Night Women, to the Booker Prize-winning A Brief History of Seven Killings.

While Dennis-Benn and James are Jamaican-born and now live in the US, a number of Jamaican writers have UK connections. Take Kerry Young, who was born in Kingston to a Chinese father and a mother of Chinese-African heritage. Young’s Jamaica-set novels explore huge themes – oppression, privilege, political awakenings, revolution – with tremendous heart. And keeping with the Jamaican-British theme, mention must be made of the late, great Andrea Levy whose writing is populated by the most perfectly-formed characters. Who can forget Miss July, narrator of The Long Song?

Moving east of Jamaica we come to Hispaniola, with the Dominican Republic on its east, Haiti to the west, and both countries brimming with literary flair. Elizabeth Acevedo’s Clap When You Land is a personal favourite set in the Dominican Republic, while Edwidge Danticat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory is an outstanding novel of childhood and life in the Haitian diaspora. Shifting further to the east, Tiphanie Yanique’s magic-infused Land of Love and Drowning begins at the pivotal point the Virgin Islands moved from Danish to American rule.

Drifting down the Leeward Islands to the Windwards, we reach majestic, mountainous Dominica. Though small in size, Dominica boasts big literary talent, not least because Jean Rhys was born here. While she only returned to the island once after leaving in 1907, Dominica’s presence is tangible through much of Rhys’s work, especially in her tautly explosive classic Wide Sargasso Sea and the affecting autobiographical vignettes of Smile, Please.

Another Dominican writer of note is Phyllis Shand Allfrey, co-founder of the island’s first political party, and author of The Orchid House, a novel that explores crumbling colonialism. And we cannot forget the contribution Elma Napier made to Dominica’s cultural life. Though Scottish by birth, Napier devoted herself to Dominica, becoming the first woman elected to any Caribbean council after settling in there in 1932. Napier’s Black and White Sands takes readers on an absorbing autobiographical journey, while her novel of ill-fated love voices early environmentalist views.

Voyaging south to Trinidad, we meet Nobel Prize winner VS Naipaul, and Monique Roffey, whose latest novel is perhaps her most ambitious yet – a sublime story of love and jealousy that melds myth with commentary on colonial legacies.

Read on to explore our Caribbean Writers Collection, and do keep checking back to discover new books. Lovers of Caribbean literature would also do well to investigate independent publishers Peepal Tree Press and Papillote Press, and excellent indie bookshop New Beacon Books, a true community pillar that’s been based in Finsbury Park since 1966.

The Mermaid of Black Conch

The Mermaid of Black Conch

Author: Monique Roffey Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/04/2020

From the author of The White Woman on the Green Bicycle and Archipelago comes what might be Monique Roffey’s most ambitious and accomplished novel yet. It’s a feat of invention – a brilliant interweaving of mermaid myth and the effects of colonial legacies on modern life. The time and place is 1976 in a small fishing village on the island of Black Conch. David is out strumming his guitar, hoping for a catch when he attracts the attention of Aycaycia, a beautiful woman whom jealous wives cursed to live as a mermaid. Some weeks later Aycaycia is caught by American tourists out on a fishing trip. Seen as source of cash, she’s strung up by them, then rescued by David. While in his care, she begins to transform back into a woman.  Blending myth and history, magic and reality, this multi-voiced, multi-textured novel (it features journal excerpts and verse) tells a rich tale of love, jealousy and freedom, exposing racism, oppression and gender inequalities through its otherworldly cloak. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.

Audiobooks of the Month
A Flying Fish Whispered

A Flying Fish Whispered

Author: Elma Napier Format: Paperback Release Date: 14/10/2011

First published in 1938, Elma Napier’s A Flying Fish Whispered is both of its age, and way ahead of it. To some extent, it’s a sexually-charged tale of doomed love between two white plantation people in the colonial tropics. But to see it solely as such is to do Napier an injustice, for this novel also tingles with the author’s environmentalism, and delivers a critique of colonial rule, demonstrating divisions between white plantation owners and workers who are exploited, disregarded and treated as an underclass. And all this is delivered with an undercurrent of proto-feminism through the character of witty, outspoken Teresa.    Teresa also gives voice to the author’s deep love of her adopted home. Born in Scotland, Napier devoted her life to Dominica, becoming the first woman elected to any Caribbean council after settling on the island in 1932, and her autobiography also comes highly recommended - Black and White Sands takes readers on an entertaining journey through an exceptional, unique life. In this novel, an elemental connection to the island’s nature, and to the environment, is fabulously expressed by Teresa when she remarks, “I love the forest, you see, and the mystery of never knowing what’s round the next corner.” And then the author adds, “Everywhere, the world over, men have cut forests that they snatch food from the soil; and now the soil flees from them.” Seminal stuff, indeed. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers.

Land Of Love And Drowning

Land Of Love And Drowning

Author: Tiphanie Yanique Format: Paperback Release Date: 17/07/2020

Set in the early 1900s as the Virgin Islands shift from Danish to American rule, this is a sublime and thought-provoking novel. An epic family saga suffused in the islands’ complex history, and the strange magic of two sisters – Anette, who can see the future, and Eeona who possesses an extraordinary siren-like beauty. “Men will love me. It is the magic I have,” she remarks. Orphaned by the sinking of a ship, this captivating novel follows the sisters through sixty years. As they experience births, deaths, losses, loves, conflicts (and curses), sweeping change swells through their St Thomas homeland, shifting the sands around race and the land ownership. While their half-brother Jacob experiences institutionalised racism in the US Army, and witnesses segregation and the start of the Civil Rights Movement, back on the island Americans are busy buying up land and privatising beaches, giving rise to clashes between locals and incomers. It’s hard to believe this is Yanique’s debut. The writing is spellbinding, assured and invokes a desire to return to its world, and its themes are vitally important, not least the very relevant issue of outsiders making prime - and formally public - land inaccessible to locals. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

In the Castle of My Skin

In the Castle of My Skin

Author: Mr George Lamming Format: Paperback Release Date: 25/05/2017

Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

Breath, Eyes, Memory

Breath, Eyes, Memory

Author: Edwidge Danticat Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/03/1996

Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

The Orchid House

The Orchid House

Author: Phyllis Shand Allfrey Format: Paperback Release Date: 30/04/2016

Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers.

Gloria

Gloria

Author: Kerry Young Format: Paperback Release Date: 10/04/2014

Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers.

eBooks of the Month
Show Me A Mountain

Show Me A Mountain

Author: Kerry Young Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/04/2017

Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers.

Smile Please

Smile Please

Author: Jean Rhys Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/11/2016

A brilliant companion piece to Wide Sargasso Sea, this is Jean Rhys' beautifully written, bitter-sweet autobiography, covering her chequered early years in Dominica, England and Paris. Jean Rhys wrote this autobiography in her old age, now the celebrated author of Wide Sargasso Sea but still haunted by memories of her troubled past: her precarious jobs on chorus lines and relationships with unsuitable men, her enduring sense of isolation and her decision at last to become a writer. From the early days on Dominica to the bleak time in England, living in bedsits on gin and little else, to Paris with her first husband, this is a lasting memorial to a unique artist. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.

Wide Sargasso Sea

Wide Sargasso Sea

Author: Jean Rhys, Andrea Ashworth Format: Hardback Release Date: 06/10/2016

Inspired by Charlotte Bronte, Jean Rhys turns one of her stories on its head and creates an absolute masterpiece in her sublimely crisp reimaging of Jane Eyre. Through making Bertha, the "madwoman in the attic", her narrator, Rhys makes and powerful statement about agency, and who gets to have their story told.    Born into the oppressive, colonialist society of 1930s Jamaica, white Creole heiress Antoinette Cosway meets a young Englishman who is drawn to her innocent beauty and sensuality. After their marriage, however, disturbing rumours begin to circulate which poison her husband against her. Caught between his demands and her own precarious sense of belonging, Antoinette is inexorably driven towards madness, and her husband into the arms of another novel's heroine. This classic study of betrayal, a seminal work of postcolonial literature, is Jean Rhys' brief, beautiful masterpiece. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.

Black and White Sands: A Bohemian Life in the Colonial Caribbean

Black and White Sands: A Bohemian Life in the Colonial Caribbean

Author: Elma Napier Format: Paperback Release Date: 31/12/2009

Elma Napier's Black and White Sands (Papillote Press) is one of my favourite books of all time. It's the enthralling autobiography of a Scottish-born aristocrat who in 1932 abandoned the trappings and vacuity of high society for a dramatically different new life in the wildly majestic Caribbean island of Dominica. Like the island, Elma's spirit is indomitable (indeed, she was the first woman to sit in a West Indian parliament), her voice witty and engaging as she recounts the trials and tribulations, the joys and jubilations she and her husband experienced while building their home and new lives on their beloved adopted island: With Dominica we fell in love at first sight, an infatuation without tangible rhyme or reason, yet no more irrational than any other falling in love. Sublime. From our Best Autobiographies Ever Blog Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers.

The White Woman on the Green Bicycle

The White Woman on the Green Bicycle

Author: Monique Roffey Format: Paperback Release Date: 20/04/2010

Shortlisted for the prestigious 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction. Set in the lush surroundings of Trinidad this story follows the marriage of a couple who despite their love for each other find they have gradually slipped away from each other. Will their love be strong enough to bring everything right or there too many other factors in the way? Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. “A very unusual and very vivid book… It’s completely original, a richly imagined portrait of a country. Once you’ve read it you’ll want to go to Trinidad. It’s extraordinary.”  Daisy Goodwin (Orange Prize for Fiction 2010 judging panel) Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers.

eBooks of the Month
Archipelago

Archipelago

Author: Monique Roffey Format: Paperback Release Date: 20/06/2013

Winner of the 2013 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature. The author of The White Woman on the Green Bicycle takes us on a voyage through the Caribbean and Panama to the Galapagos, as a father and daughter confront loss and deepen their relationship.  Full of the wonder of the sea and wildlife, evocative and rich, it is a most enjoyable read. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers.

eBooks of the Month
A View of the Empire at Sunset

A View of the Empire at Sunset

Author: Caryl Phillips Format: Paperback Release Date: 21/06/2018

Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

The Same Earth

The Same Earth

Author: Kei Miller Format: Paperback Release Date: 19/02/2009

Comparisons will inevitably be made to Alexander McCall Smith as Miller has the same gentle style. A lovely story about a young girl who has moved back to Jamaica after the death of her mother. When her friends underwear is stolen they decide to set up a neighbourhood watch scheme but not everyone in town is so keen to have one. Funny, poignant and charming. Miller is a writer to keep an eye on. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

eBooks of the Month
The Last Warner Woman

The Last Warner Woman

Author: Kei Miller Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/07/2010

July 2010 Book of the Month. We follow Adamine as she grows up in Jamaica, discovering through her church that she has a gift of ‘warning’. This gift is respected in her homeland but when she moves to England she discovers her prophecies are seem more as a sign of madness and she is institutionalised. Now as an old woman she wants to tell her story. A moving and bittersweet tale. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

eBooks of the Month
Augustown

Augustown

Author: Kei Miller Format: Paperback Release Date: 11/05/2017

Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

The Confessions of Frannie Langton

The Confessions of Frannie Langton

Author: Sara Collins Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/08/2019

The Old Bailey, 1826 and Frannie Langton stands in court accused of the brutal murder of her former master and mistress. But “there was love between me and her”, she tells the court as she relates her story from 1812, when she worked at Paradise plantation, Jamaica. With the skills of reading and writing “packed inside” her, “dangerous as gunpowder”, Frannie is taken to London and sent to work for a man named George Benham. His wife, the beautiful, eccentric Madame Marguerite Benham “stirred a feeling of wanting” in Frannie, and she becomes Madame’s lady’s maid and secretary - and more. But theirs is a complex, volatile relationship. “The truth is there was love as well as hate,” Frannie acknowledges. “The truth is, the love hurt worse”. Speaking at her trial, during which she recounts the inhumane racial experimentation undertaken by the master of Paradise, Frannie asks, “Sirs, I wonder...in the whole sum of human history, by what order have you white men been wrong more than you’ve been right?” She also questions the privileges and entitlements of gender: “how confident a man must be to write down his musings, expecting anybody else to be interested in reading them”.  Ablaze with drama, detail, tension and wit, and wise on the nature of agency and freedom, this comes highly recommended for fans of Andrea Levy’s The Long Song, Marlon James’s The Book of Night Women and Sarah Waters.  According to Frannie, “A novel is like a long, warm drink but a poem is a spike through the head”. By her definition, this novel is both these things - as potent as a poem, as addictive as a long, warm drink. Have a look at our Ambassador Book Buzz for The Confessions of Frannie Langton. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.

Star Books
The Lonely Londoners

The Lonely Londoners

Author: Sam Selvon, Nasta Susheila Format: Paperback Release Date: 27/07/2006

Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

Small Island

Small Island

Author: Andrea Levy Format: Paperback Release Date: 17/06/2014

A novel about racism, prejudice and injustice in the post war years in London as Jamaicans, escaping economic hardship, move to the Mother Country.  Told from four characters’ points of view, it deserves all the accolades and prizes it has received.  Powerful yet light in touch, humorous yet high in drama, it is a most rewarding and touching read. Won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2004 and on the 25th Jan 2005 the Whitbread 2004 overall. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

eBooks of the Month
The Long Song

The Long Song

Author: Andrea Levy Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/01/2011

One of our Great Reads you may have missed in 2011.   Shortlisted for the Galaxy UK Author of the Year Award 2011.   February 2011 Book of the Month. Winner of the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2011. Featured on The TV Book Club on More4 on 23 Jan 2011. Don't miss the latest novel from Andrea Levy, The author of the award winning Small Island. The Long Song is the story of July, a slave girl on a plantation in Jamaica during the last, turbulent years of Slavery. Set against the backdrop of the Baptist War of 1831 and the subsequent years when slavery was declared no more, this is an emotional and sometimes harrowing account told from the point of view of those who experienced the troubles first hand. Beautifully written, insightful and intelligent. Featured on The TV Book Club on More4 on 23 Jan 2011. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2010. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

Books of the Month
Every Light in the House Burnin'

Every Light in the House Burnin'

Author: Andrea Levy Format: Paperback Release Date: 23/02/1995

Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

Never Far From Nowhere

Never Far From Nowhere

Author: Andrea Levy Format: Paperback Release Date: 08/08/1996

Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

John Crow's Devil

John Crow's Devil

Author: Marlon James Format: Paperback Release Date: 10/09/2015

An often uncomfortable, overwhelming, yet impressively compelling read. ‘John Crow’s Devil’ originally published in 2005, is the debut novel of Marlon James, Man Booker prize winner for ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings’. Apparently James’ debut was rejected 78 times before being published, and personally I had my doubts as I began to read, and yet, and yet… the further I read, the more I felt myself being consumed by this penetrating and provocative novel. Two men, two preachers, battle each other, two women choose sides, while the rest of the village follow the stronger man. An anonymous village voice occasionally comes to the fore, narrating, telling, explaining, speaking with a Jamaican dialect, sometimes using unknown words that somehow make themselves understood. The story weaves between the village voice, clearly, firmly setting the story in stone, yet unexpected words will make you stop and think in a sentence previously flowing like water. With images that burst into your minds eye, be prepared to be moved, perturbed and to feel your heart break, yet wonder at the power of this profound novel.  Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

eBooks of the Month
A Brief History of Seven Killings

A Brief History of Seven Killings

Author: Marlon James Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/06/2015

Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2015. Set against the backdrop of 1970s reggae culture, disco, sex and excess comes this remarkable re-imagining of the attempted assassination of Bob Marley. Gripping and inventive, ambitious and mesmerising, A Brief History of Seven Killings is one of the most remarkable and extraordinary novels of the twenty-first century. Michael Wood, Chair of the Man Booker judges, commented: ‘This book is startling in its range of voices and registers, running from the patois of the street posse to The Book of Revelation. It is a representation of political times and places, from the CIA intervention in Jamaica to the early years of crack gangs in New York and Miami. ‘It is a crime novel that moves beyond the world of crime and takes us deep into a recent history we know far too little about. It moves at a terrific pace and will come to be seen as a classic of our times.’   Click here to see a special hardback edition of this book. Click here to see John Crow's Devil by the same author. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

The Book of Night Women

The Book of Night Women

Author: Marlon James Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/10/2014

Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

Patsy

Patsy

Author: Nicole Dennis-Benn Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/07/2019

As impactful as the author’s Montego Bay-set debut (Here Comes the Sun), this stirring novel sees Patsy fulfill her dream of leaving Jamaica (and Tru, her five-year-old daughter), to join Cicely, her best friend and secret lover, in Brooklyn. But when Patsy reaches her land of milk and honey a chasm gapes between her expectations and the actualities of being an undocumented immigrant: “The job that she had at the Ministry in Kingston was by far a more dignified job than cleaning houses, than wiping the assess of other people’s children, walking a dog and picking up shit.” And Cicely doesn’t live up to expectations, either. “Yuh don’t have to keep up di act wid me,” Patsy says to her friend, whose situation is less than the idyll she’d painted for Patsy. Meanwhile, with the passing of a decade, Tru is becoming her own young woman, defying convention by playing football with boys, and binding her breasts to keep them hidden. Across the ocean, and down the years, mother and daughter have more in common than either might imagine. Traversing generations and cultures, exposing white privilege and homophobia, exploring sexuality, the pressures of motherhood and the raw struggles of womanhood, Patsy’s plight of fleeing one cage for another, her search for peace and passion, makes for a profoundly stirring and highly readable novel. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.

Star Books
Here Comes the Sun

Here Comes the Sun

Author: Nicole Dennis-Benn Format: Hardback Release Date: 02/03/2017

Capturing the distinct rhythms of Jamaican life and dialect, Nicole Dennis-Benn pens a tender hymn to a world hidden among pristine beaches and the wide expanse of turquoise seas. At an opulent resort in Montego Bay, Margot hustles to send her younger sister, Thandi, to school. Taught as a girl to trade her sexuality for survival, Margot is ruthlessly determined to shield Thandi from the same fate. When plans for a new hotel threaten the destruction of their community, each woman - fighting to balance the burdens she shoulders with the freedom she craves - must confront long-hidden scars. From a much-heralded new writer, Here Comes the Sun offers a dramatic glimpse into a vibrant, passionate world most outsiders see simply as paradise. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

A Tall History of Sugar

A Tall History of Sugar

Author: Curdella Forbes Format: Hardback Release Date: 06/02/2020

Beginning in rural Jamaica in the late 1950s with the island on the verge of independence from Britain, A Tall History of Sugar is an all-consuming story of love, history and self-determination whose author, Curdella Forbes, possesses a majestic ability to evoke the big from the small. Rich details of dialogue, of time and place, of inner states and the outer world, intermesh with a sweeping sense of history, with its pertinent opening line referencing the state of contemporary Britain: “Long ago, when teachers were sent from Britain to teach in the grammar schools of the West Indian colonies (it was Great Britain then, not Little England, as it is now, after Brexit and the fall of empire)…” At the heart of this mythic tale is Moshe, whose appearance and biblical discovery as a baby in a twist of sea grape trees shrouds him in mystery, and elicits much mockery and fear. “With his pale skin, one sky-blue eye and one dark-brown eye…people said the boy just looked like sin. Big sin at work when he was made.” After spending his first years in the company of the childless woman who found him, Moshe forms an unbreakable bond with fellow outsider Arrienne. At school, “with the large girl sitting silently beside him, he felt that he would die of happiness.” While both Arrienne and Moshe excel in their studies, artistically gifted Moshe leaves his politically-engaged soul mate and arrives in England during the hot, fractious summer of 1976, where he hopes to find his birth father. His search takes him from Brixton, borough with a “thousand faces”, to Bristol, where he encounters the incongruity of former slave-owners being celebrated as hero philanthropists, with the urge to be close to Arrienne remaining a constant draw through all his experiences. Complex, compelling and luminously lyrical, this tells a powerful tale I know I’ll return to over and over. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

Star Books
Clap When You Land

Clap When You Land

Author: Elizabeth Acevedo Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/05/2020

From the multi-award-winning author of The Poet X and With the Fire on High comes Elizabeth Acevedo’s exceptional dual-voiced novel about loss, love and sisterhood across the sea, a story partly sparked by the fatal crash of a flight from NYC to Santo Domingo in 2001.   Camino Rios has always lived in the Dominican Republic with her aunt Tia, “a woman who speaks to the dead, who negotiates with spirits”, a woman who’s like a mother to her: “Even when Mama was alive, Tia was the other mother of my heart.” Life’s not easy for them on the island, but they have it better than their neighbours as a result of Camino’s beloved Papi working in the US for most of year. To Camino, Papi is a “A king who built an empire so I’d have a throne to inherit”, and she lives for the summer months when he comes home to them. But all life is thrown into terrible disarray when she goes to meet Papi at the airport and learns that his plane has fallen from the sky, and then: “I am swallowed by this shark-toothed truth.” This story is blessed with such divinely piercing language throughout. At the same time, across the Atlantic, Yahaira Rios learns that her hero Papi has died in a plane crash. She already knew he had a wife on the island (but not of his secret daughter), and has always longed to reconcile her Dominican heritage with her American life: “Can you be from a place you have never been? You can find the island stamped all over me, but what would the island find if I was there? Can you claim a home that does not know you, much less claim you as its own?” When it emerges that Papi wishes to be buried back in DR, Yahaira’s Mami insists that she will never let her “touch foot on the sands of that tierra.” But Yahaira has other plans, not least when she’s contacted by a girl named Camino Rios who bears an undeniable resemblance to Papi, and to her too.   As well as being exceptionally affecting on grief, forgiveness and family secrets, Clap When You Land is also devastatingly sharp on the exploitative tendencies of tourism. In Camino’s words: “I am from a playground place…Our land, lush and green, is bought and sold to foreign powers so they can build luxury hotels...Even the women, girls like me, our mothers and tias, our bodies are branded jungle gyms…Who reaps? Who eats? Not us. Not me.” Overflowing with truths of the heart, and truths about inequalities that need to be broken, while also addressing the complexities of what it means to be of a place, I can’t praise this highly enough. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

Audiobooks of the Month
A House for Mr Biswas

A House for Mr Biswas

Author: V. S. Naipaul Format: Hardback Release Date: 20/08/2020

Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers.

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House

Author: Cherie Jones Format: Hardback Release Date: 21/01/2021

Set in Barbados in 1984, Cherie Jones’s How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House undulates with ocean-pure, ocean-powerful writing. Telling the poignant stories of Bajan women struggling to survive the actions of abusive men who’ve veered violently off track, it’s an exceptional debut that deftly exposes the inequalities of race and gender that simmer beneath the island’s paradisal veneer. As a child, Lala’s grandmother guardian told her the cautionary tale of the one-armed sister who disobeyed her elders and ventured into the tunnels near their home at Baxter’s Beach. As a young woman, Lala braids the hair of white tourists who rent luxury beachfront villas while she cares for her baby and lives with her abusive, petty criminal husband Adan. When Adan bungles a burglary, he unleashes a succession of devastating events that results in two women losing the thing most dear to them. As a result, Adan is compelled to flee to his secret hideaway, and so the tunnels of the cautionary tale take on real-world significance. Demonstrating the deep-rooted extent of patriarchal control and abuse, the narrative slips back in time to tell the stories of Lala’s mother and grandmother. “Of course she did not leave him. What woman leaves a man for something she is likely to suffer at the hands of any other?” - tellingly this excerpt is applicable to all three generations. The author also explores the tangled relationships between these women, and the complexity of mother-daughter bonds, such as when Lala comments, of herself, “despite your best efforts, you are exactly like your mother”. And yet, at the same time, she misses her mother “more than ever”. Another powerful theme is that of the destructive underbelly of tourism - the fishing villages that “died in the birthing of the big houses, because rich tourists who visit for a few months each year do not wish to suffer the stink of market”, and the men who sell themselves to older white women, such as Tone the gigolo, Lala’s childhood love, who’s much more than he seems. What a novel. What execution. What a writer to watch.

Star Books
The Bread the Devil Knead

The Bread the Devil Knead

Author: Lisa Allen-Agostini Format: Paperback Release Date: 20/05/2021

Written in its unforgettable protagonist’s captivating Trinidadian voice, Lisa-Allen Agostini’s The Bread the Devil Knead is an exceptionally immersive read that resonates with the heart-wrenching rawness of a women’s lifelong abuse at the hands of men, and the seeds of her future liberation. Every perfectly-placed word, every perfectly-formed sentence rings with truth and strikes deep. Port of Spain boutique manager Alethea is about to turn forty. Thankfully, though, there’s one thing she can count on, “and that is my looks. I going on forty but you would never know it, because every morning and night God spare life I does cleanse and tone and moisturise from head to foot.” But while she has her looks and is philosophical about reaching this life landmark (“is just a number and the face you does see staring back at you in the mirror not as important as the memories in the mind behind it”), the trouble with Alethea is that “most of the memories was bad”, while her present-day life sees her frequently abused by her partner. She finds some solace in the arms of her boss, though, and in books: “This is how I does see the world: by reading books. I does go to London, Hong Kong, Siberia, even, when I read a book. I does meet all kind of people. Learn all kinds of words. Live all kinds of lives. Thank God for books.” Then, when her adopted brother, now a priest, returns after decades away, she begins to take a new path as secrets are laid bare and ways through a dark and tangled forest come to light. Through Alethea’s complex, damaged character Agostini lays bare complex, potent truths about sexual and violent abuse, racism and colourism. Mixed race and light of skin, she’s subjected to prejudice: “because my skin light colour they feel like I feel I better than them. That is bullshit”, and “People in this island does always surprise to know it have poor white people, but though we skin was light and we hair was straight we wasn’t really white and we didn’t have a penny to we name.” And she also sees that “even after Independence, after Black Power, after all that. Is still a kind of racial, colour-conscious place where people who look like me does get through” while darker skinned people “doesn’t get one shit.” Raw and achingly beautiful, this really is remarkable.

Star Books
Stick No Bills

Stick No Bills

Author: Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw Format: Paperback Release Date: 29/10/2020

All twenty-two of the short stories included in Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw’s stunning Caribbean-set Stick No Bills are rich in atmosphere and thought-provoking observational detail. Cutting to the core of their characters’ states and situations, lingering long, and possessing the power of a Siren’s call to draw readers back for multiple readings, these stories are masterworks of the form. Vibrant with humanity and emotional ambiguities and truths, each story is a finely drawn vignette. The author’s characterisation is first-class; her painterly observations and details of place and psychological states profoundly affecting. Take 'Killing Time', for example, in which a young Trinidadian woman coins the term “lostfulness” to describe her uncertain state of being and relinquishes her dream of becoming a writer - the ending made my heart flip. Some of the stories are only a few paragraphs long, and yet these too bear tremendous power. 82, for example, unpacks an entire existence in its chain of 82 words. In these shortest pieces, Walcott-Hackshaw conveys the feeling of existing within particular moments with brilliant dynamism - fleeting flashes of thought, or poignant reflection, or anticipation of what will come next. The eponymous story, 'Stick No Bills', is an exquisite example of this, capturing as it does the cycle of life and motherhood as a woman ponders the imminent departures of her daughter and mother with heart-aching precision, and all prompted by observing a “stick no bills” notice on an ice factory she first saw during her childhood. While the stories exude multiple moods, together they form an exquisite whole, united by finely-threaded themes of family, loss, the passing of time, ponderings on the past, and possible futures.

Star Books
Daylight Come

Daylight Come

Author: Diana McCaulay Format: Paperback Release Date: 24/09/2020

Potently timely, Diana McCaulay’s Daylight Come is a Caribbean-set masterwork of speculative fiction that explores humanity and avenues of hope in the devastating wake of climate change. It’s 2084. The island of Bajacu is under the ruthless rule of the Domins. While “dawn used to be hopeful,” the inhabitants are now “on the run from the day” as a result of the sun’s scorching strength forcing people to sleep by day and work by night. In the cooler mountains, the Toplander elites protect themselves in a hidden refuge, while Sorrel and her mother Bibi are struggling Lowlanders. On her fourteenth birthday, Sorrel makes a promise: “one day, she would find a place where it was possible to sleep in the dark and go outside all day when it was light.” Sick of their precarious, close-to-starving existence, and having heard of the Tribals, people in the island’s interior who’ve found ways of sustaining themselves and surviving the attacks of feral animals, Sorrel persuades her mother to head for higher ground. Bibi’s narrative reveals the environmental changes that led to this situation - the escalating global effects of “melting ice, swirling snowstorms, cities swallowed by earthquakes”. Closer to home, “the crops began failing and the fruit trees stopped bearing.” Human fertility declined too, resulting in fertile women falling prey to Domin men. During their gruelling journey, Sorrel, the girl who came into the world as the sun rose, the girl whose birth was “daylight come,” is rescued by a young Tribal woman. The Tribals have made a life for themselves in the cooler highlands, where breadfruit and coconuts still grow, where water is plentiful - bounties Sorrel has never known. Mother and daughter are taken to the Tribal elder who will decide if they can stay but, at 45, Bibi is too old. Blamed for the state of the world, and a seen as a drain, older people have no value in this society. The elemental beauty of Bibi and Sorrel’s bond is a powerful thread - how Bibi knows her daughter bone-deep and makes the most profound sacrifice for her. Sisterhood is central too, as seen through the tribe of resourceful women coming together in a society in which men and women are deeply divided. And it’s women who devise and lead the courageous, perilous act that may forge a more hopeful future. Gritty, moving, and startlingly plausible, this exceptional novel delivers an extraordinarily powerful perspective on pertinent problems facing humankind right now (hunger, environmental ruination, deep social inequalities), but beams of hope burn through the bleakness.

Star Books
Motherland and Other Stories

Motherland and Other Stories

Author: Wandeka Gayle Format: Paperback Release Date: 19/11/2020

Like the very best short stories, Wandeka Gayle’s Motherland and Other Stories are multi-layered, long-lingering, and delivered in a deceptively simple style - vivid vignettes of life from varied corners of the globe with lasting impact that grows over time and draws you back. Many of the tales take turns down unexpected paths - purposeful detours and changes of direction that reveal new truths. Others present intimate, intense portraits of their protagonist’s complex relationship to home (Jamaica). All of them exude elegance and insights into the human condition. In my book, that’s pretty much short story perfection. Though distinct, the twelve stories are united by the courage of their protagonists, and an exploration of what it is to be black in white worlds. In Motherland we meet compassionate Roxanne, who moved from Jamaica and works in a London care home. She encounters racism, but strikes a bond with an elderly writer resident. Then there’s Ayo in Finding Joy, who leaves Jamaica to study in Louisiana and finds agency through personal upheavals “in this foreign place.” Each story, and each woman’s experiences, had me utterly in their thrall.

Star Books
Black Teacher

Black Teacher

Author: Beryl Gilroy Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/07/2021

What a voice, what a story, what experiences, and what a vital record of the Windrush Generation experience, as told by a skilled teacher who came to Britain to be confronted with racist colour bars in place of the anticipated welcoming arms of the colonial Motherland. Black Teacher is an important, engaging and eye-opening piece of social history, and its author, Beryl Gilroy, has outstanding literary flair - her dialogue and evocation of character is first-class. Born in British Guyana in 1924, Beryl Gilroy arrived in Britain as an experienced, respected teacher and yet, “Here I was, over twenty years later, feeling and acting like a novice. I was afraid to go to school.” So Beryl said to her husband ahead of beginning her second term as the Headmistress of a North London infants school (in 1969, she was Camden’s first black headteacher). And the reason for her trepidation? The school was “full of tense, fighting people,” its pupils disruptive due to boredom and a lack of purpose, with parents who mutter that there’s “nothing but blacks everywhere.” And all this followed years of battling to secure a teaching position - Beryl moved to Britain in 1958 to study Child Development, but found herself continually overlooked for teaching positions. As a result, she took work as in an office, then as a lady’s maid, while never giving up on her vocation. Throughout the author is an inspiration - a loveable, valiant pioneer whose story, resilience and dedication had me enthralled from start to finish.

Fortune

Fortune

Author: Amanda Smyth Format: Paperback Release Date: 24/06/2021

From the exceptional author of Black Rock, Amanda Smyth’s Fortune is an absolute dazzler. Set in 1920s Trinidad, and based on real-life events, the novel is founded on exquisite storytelling. It’s measured in style, and panoramic in impact - though the writing is so finely accomplished its influence swells over time as the novel charts a universal story of desire and ambition, of love and lust, of all-but impossible battles with the external forces of nature. I relished every sentence, every considered word, every beat of a plot that pulses to the varied rhythms of its characters’ unsettled hearts. What’s more, it captures a nation on the cusp of monumental change - Trinidad’s earth-shattering shift to oil from its struggling sugar and cocoa industries. A chance encounter between handsome, charismatic Eddie Wade and Trinidadian business man Tito (lately down on his luck) leads them to hatch a plan to make their fortunes in oil. And the man who holds the key to their future fortunes is Sonny Chatterjee, a superstitious farmer whose cocoa estate is failing due to the abundance of oil oozing up through his soil. Sonny is reluctant to go into the oil business with anyone, and sceptical, as is his wife (“Who really need oil? Who want it? Not me, not you. You can eat oil?”), though she’s also angered by their escalating poverty. And so the two men convince Sonny, and they’re granted a lease to drill his land for a year. The very first meeting between Eddie and Tito’s wife Ada is charged with electricity. She’s a beautiful enigma, he’s like no one she’s never met, “he could have fallen out of the sky.” As the oil project progresses, the men battle sickness and set-backs until the black gold starts surging, as does the yearning between Ada and Eddie. Though ignorant of this, Tito unwittingly makes a premonitory statement, of sorts: “Ada has fire in her. A woman who has fire, if you love her, she’ll warm up your heart.” To which Eddie replies, “If you don’t she’ll burn down your house.” Tito laughs, “That’s exactly right, Eddie. She’ll burn down your house.” The way Ada and Eddie’s relationship buds from fascination, to lustful tension, to overwhelming desire, is exquisite: “Ada knew something was happening to her. The world was different. The hills were greener, the sky a painting of light.” A fatal accident on a neighbouring oil site causes Sonny to want to halt the drilling and sell up, but Tito and Eddie want to drill one more well before their lease is up. Enthralling and heart-stopping to the end, Fortune is a magnificent feat of fiction.

Star Books

Comments (0)


Leave A Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.