On the fateful day that newlyweds George and Sabine Harwood disembark from the ship that has transported them from their comfortable lives in England to a newly liberated Trinidad, a cluster of ravens circles the harbor, boding ill for their island adventure.
Throughout this sensuous and deeply sad novel, the motif of flight asserts an ominous presence in many forms - floating ash appears in Sabine's dreams as the reverse image of snow ("black flecks... against a blanket of white"), a fancy hat reminds George of a dead raven, and, in a technological twist, a blimp orbits the island, silently spying on its citizens for unknown yet widely speculated reasons. Each of these examples delineates Sabine's unhappiness in Trinidad, which is both instant and life-long.
Bird imagery even extends to the real-life popular calypso singer dubbed the Mighty Sparrow, though he...
Beyond the Book
In 1956, Americans were getting their first taste of Trinidad's unique contribution to music in the form of Harry Belafonte's infectious crossover hit, "The Banana Boat Song (Day-O)." A brief fervor for all things calypso followed, resulting in such nutty fare as tough guy actor Robert Mitchum's album, Calypso - Is Like So... (1957), and kitschy B movie Bop Girl Goes Calypso (1957). Although Belafonte may have been known as the King of Calypso in the United States (a claim to fame never made for Mitchum), Trinidadians revered serious performers like Lord Kitchener, Sir Lancelot, and the Mighty Sparrow, and for them, calypso symbolized much more than barbecue background music.