Book review: Love after Love, by Ingrid Persuad

Book review: Love after Love, by Ingrid Persuad

reviewed by Frances Churchward.

This novel is set in Trinidad and has three protagonists; Betty, a single mother, Solo, her teenage son who grows into a young man over the course of the story, and Mr Chetan who is Betty’s long term lodger. Each character tells their story from their own point of view as we proceed through the novel.

Betty’s husband and the father of Solo died many years ago and the main story begins at the point where Betty has developed a deep friendship with Chetan, the lodger. During one evening of relaxing at home with Chetan and after drinking rum together, Betty reveals a terrible secret to him. Chetan is unfazed by the revelation but, unfortunately, Betty is overheard by her son, the young Solo, and their relationship is ruptured as a result. As soon as he is old enough, Solo leaves Trinidad and goes to live with his dead father’s brother in New York and, although he cuts off all connection with his mother, he maintains regular contact with Chetan who has always provided a father figure to Solo. As the story unfolds over a passage of a few years, we follow the highs and lows of the lives of each character.

I enjoyed this story although it contains descriptions of self- harm which, as I am squeamish, I had to gloss over very quickly. The story has several unexpected turns and so the reader is never quite sure of the direction that it is going to take. Much of the speech is in Trinidadian vernacular which I didn’t altogether understand but, nonetheless, was still able to gather the meaning of. 

All three of the main characters are well developed and evinced my empathy. However, the character whose story I enjoyed the most was undoubtedly that of the irrepressible Betty, a strong woman who finds the ability to face the problems in her life and to deal with them. 

The novel also paints a very colourful picture of life in present day Trinidad, presented as a place of beauty yet  with an intolerance of difference and flashes of violence. In addition,we learn much about the pleasures of Trinidadian cooking and the importance of sharing food with the people in one’s life.

This book is a good read although not necessarily an easy one. There is, however, intentional humour in the interactions between the three main characters and the subsidiary characters and this serves to lighten the load of what is, essentially, a sad story.  

Published by Faber & Faber April 2020. Available at good bookshops, including October Books, in Portswood, Southampton, which is currently operating through its website