The loverman referred to in the title of Bernadine Evaristo’s latest novel is 74-year-old Barrington Jedidiah Walker. Barry loves himself:
Folk used to tell me I looked like a young Sidney Poitier. Now they say I resemble a (slightly) older Denzel Washington.
and he won’t have anyone talk down to him:
Oh, boy, I catch so much fire when people talk down to me like I’m some back-a-bush dumb arse who don’t understand the ins and outs of the Queen’s English…the only reason I didn’t go to no university was because I didn’t score highly enough to get the single government scholarship to a university in England. I been taking evening classes since 1971 to make up for it.
Sociology, psychology, Archeology, Oloyology – you name it. English literature, French language, naturellement. Don’t even get me started on Mr Shakespeare, Esq., with whom I have been having the most satisfying cerebral relationship, sirrah. I know my Artology too: Miro, Morandi, Munch, Moore and Mondrian, not to mention the rest of the alphabet.
Barry’s also built himself a nice property portfolio while working as an engine fitter at Ford’s. Despite all this, probably the most interesting thing about Barry is the other person he loves: his long-term, also 74-year-old, gay lover, Morris. And why should that be so interesting in this day and age? Barry’s been married to Carmel for fifty years and they have two grown-up daughters.
At the beginning of the novel, Barry arrives home in the early hours, creeping into the bedroom he shares with Carmel.
Far as she’s concerned, her husband is a womanizer. Out sewing his seed with all those imaginary Hyacinths, Merediths and Daffodils. On what evidence? Alien perfume? Lipstick on my collar? Ladies panties in mi jacket pocket?
I can honestly say to my wife, ‘Dear I ain’t never slept with another woman.’
She chooses not to believe me.
By the middle of chapter three, Barry’s decided he’s taking Morris up on an offer he made over twenty years ago – he’s leaving Carmel to see out his final years with Morris.
God a-damn me the day I chose to enter the hellish so-called marriage instead of following my Morris-loving, sweet-loving, full-blooded, hot-blooded, pumping-rumping, throbbing organ of an uncontainable, unrestrainable, undetainable man-loving heart.
There’s lots to love about this novel. I’ve quoted from it quite substantially in the hope that the rhythmic nature of the prose is evident. It really is a joy to read. Barry’s story and the way Evaristo looks at some important cultural issues – the view of homosexuality in the Caribbean culture when Barry and Morris were younger and how events/parental behaviour can manifest themselves in grown-up children’s behaviour, in particular – is very well done. And finally, Carmel. Carmel narrates several chapters and her story is very interesting indeed. Perhaps Barry isn’t the only one keeping secrets.
I absolutely loved this novel. I highly recommend it and I’ve already sought out more of Evaristo’s novels to devour soon.