From Publishers Weekly
Nunez (Bruised Hibiscus
) critiques colonialist assumptions about race and class in this ambitious reworking of The Tempest
, set in her native Trinidad in the early 1960s. Dr. Peter Gardner (the Prospero figure) arrives on the island with his baby daughter after a botched medical experiment in England made him an outlaw. The novel's Caliban is Carlos, a mixed-race orphan whose house on an outlying island the doctor steals. Gardner teaches the boy biology, astronomy, music—"an exclusively European education," Carlos later reflects—but his natural brilliance far surpasses anything the doctor can impart. Inevitably, Carlos and Gardner's daughter, Virginia (Miranda), fall in love; the doctor, in a paroxysm of rage at the thought of a sexual union between his daughter and a dark-skinned man, accuses Carlos of attempted rape. As the criminal charge is investigated, Nunez reveals Gardner to be the real criminal—not only toward Carlos, but also toward his native servant, Ariana (Ariel), and Virginia herself. With its strong themes and dramatic ironies, this story should speak for itself; Nunez, however, overexplains her material, forecasting plot developments and leaning, at times, toward didacticism. But while her portrait of demonic scientist Gardner remains superficial, readers will find her love story—which has a refreshingly happy ending—very sensitively told. (Feb.)
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Through one family's unique circumstances, the always-eloquent Nunez invokes larger themes of race, class, and colonialism. In the late 1950s, mad scientist Peter Gardner flees England to escape charges that he experimented on his patients. He and his young daughter, Virginia, settle on an isolated leper colony off the coast of Trinidad. They soon take over the house of a mixed-race orphan, Carlos, who was left in the care of a dying housekeeper. Gardner imposes a strict regimen on the household; trumpets the superiority of the white race; alternately treats Carlos as a slave and as an experiment by educating him about music, literature, and science; and devotes extraordinary amounts of time to cultivating hybrid flowers. His daughter, Virginia, responds to Carlos'great kindness and patience, and their abiding friendship, carried out in secret, blossoms into a love affair that threatens Gardner's worldview and puts the couple in danger. Although the enthralling story line loses some power in the final section, Nunez has crafted a beautiful, layered novel that echoes both The Tempest
and Heart of Darkness
. Joanne WilkinsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved