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.
When Teresa Craddock joins her brother Tommy on an island that is and isn t Dominica, she is in flight from life and the death of her fiancé. On the island she finds a congenial new home and rediscovers a zest for life. Indeed, when Derek Morell, the new owner of an old estate, signals an unmistakeable interest in her, Teresa is more than ready for an adventure, despite the inconvenient fact that Morell is married. But what seems to begin as a witty account of romance in a tropical setting reveals itself to be an important lost work in Caribbean fiction, parallel to the work of Phyllis Allfrey and Jean Rhys. Ultimately, A Flying Fish Whispered becomes a deeply imaginative exploration of different kinds of Caribbeans.
Introduction by Evelyn O Callaghan.
|Publication date:||14th October 2011|
|Publisher:||Peepal Tree Press Ltd|
|Primary Genre||Modern and Contemporary Fiction|