A major debut from an award-winning writeran epic family saga set against the magic and the rhythms of the Virgin Islands.
In the early 1900s, the Virgin Islands are transferred from Danish to American rule, and an important ship sinks into the Caribbean Sea. Orphaned by the shipwreck are two sisters and their half brother, now faced with an uncertain identity and future. Each of them is unusually beautiful, and each is in possession of a particular magic that will either sink or save them.
Chronicling three generations of an island family from 1916 to the 1970s, Land of Love and Drowning is a novel of love and magic, set against the emergence of Saint Thomas into the modern world. Uniquely imagined, with echoes of Toni Morrison, Gabriel García Márquez, and the author's own Caribbean family history, the story is told in a language and rhythm that evoke an entire world and way of life and love. Following the Bradshaw family through sixty years of fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, love affairs, curses, magical gifts, loyalties, births, deaths, and triumphs, Land of Love and Drowning is a gorgeous, vibrant debut by an exciting, prizewinning young writer.
Owen Arthur Bradshaw watched as the little girl was tied up with lace and silk. He jostled the warm rum in his glass and listened to the wind.
The storm outside wasn't a hurricane. Just a tropical gale. It was the season for storms. Lightning slated through the heavy wooden shutters that were closed but unfastened. The thunder was coming through the walls built with blue bitch stone. There was no one outside walking in the rain. That sort of thing was avoided.
A scientist visiting from America had brought the lace and the silk. They were all at the house of Mr. Lovernkrandt, an eminent Danish businessman. Denmark was giving up on the West Indies and American was buying in, but Mr. Lovernkrandt was not leaving. The scientist was tying the girl up. He was demonstrating an experiment that had become stale on the Continent, an experiment of electricity. The little girl was very beautiful. And she was very little. And she was very afraid. She was also very brave.
Yanique's incorporation of magical realism and her ability to tie the Virgin Islands' mythical tales into her narrative, creates fantastical elements that build mood and atmosphere. The sensory descriptions and the characters' deep sense of place cement the vibrant scenes for the reader, but the addition of magical realism elements — one character has a cleft foot, another has beauty more radiant than a mermaid — transforms the narrative from passive writing into animated storytelling. We hear as well as see the characters' stories. The effect is transcendent.
(Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).
Land of Love and Drowning opens in the early 1900s when the Virgin Islands were still under the control of Denmark. European powers, namely France, Denmark, and England, had taken an interest in the Virgin Islands since the early 1600s. Denmark settled St. John and St. Thomas by the mid-1600s, and purchased St. Croix from the French in 1733, forming the three islands into the Danish West Indies. The remaining large islands of significance were in British hands. A treaty in 1685 established a trading post for slaves in St. Thomas, allowed the island to develop an economy based on trade, while St. John and St. Croix maintained a plantation economy harvesting cane, cotton, and indigo. Interestingly, pirates, who were viewed as a source of...
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