Thursday, March 25, 2010

Carnival by Robert Antoni - Book Club Discussions

The club got together on March 8th and discussed our latest read Carnival by Robert Antoni. The author is Caribbean born (actually he's a Trinidadian). The story is about a young writer; William who is afraid to become intimate with women due to a traumatic experience when he was younger. On the other hand Rachel, the love of his life is very enticing. William and his friends comes to Trinidad for carnival to escape their troubles but eventually it catches up with them. The book was chosen by non other than myself.

I'll start off by saying that the choice was not so good. The book started slowly and failed to gain any momentum. We found an uncanny almost disturbing similarly between carnival and Ernest Hemingway "The Sun also rises". In fact a few of the members noted that they goggled the book online and found reviews that cited the same exact thing. We suspect that Hemingway was a major influence on the work. Not very original.

The story was placed in the context that all of us could relate to. Most of the story took place in Trinidad during Carnival time. We all agreed that the author captured our country's biggest festival accurately. The culture, the mannerisms, the language. It also looked at the close knit relationships between West Indians and those living abroad. I wished that some of our oversees members were available to discuss. I would love to hear what they thought about the setting.

The characters were also familiar. The main character William was a 'white trini' or what we refer to as a Syrian. As a result of their color and the fact that most of them are wealthy business men, that earns them a high status in society. Yet the author also showed how their status changed once they moved abroad. They no longer had that high status and were treated as part of the caribbean diaspora. Some of us felt that William was a bit pretentious. It was almost like he was ashamed of where he came from or perhaps he was displaying characteristic behavior of West Indians in the diaspora. He viewed his life in Trinidad as backward and in order for him to progress, he had to move to the United States. Yet in this country, he faced his own prejudices. Additionally everyone could attest to knowing Lawrence, a black boy from a poor neighborhood who worked hard to achieve his success.

The whole tone of the book is very sexual and at times men were depicted as hyper-sexual. We all wondered if the author was making reference to nature of sexuality in the caribbean when he used this undertone in the story. I felt like the author also tried to work a bit of his own life story in the plot. What confirmed this for me was when the famous West Indian author told William that he should not put a picture of himself on his books (because he is a white trini and most people may not relate to him or his work)

Mixed into all of that is the comparisons between Lawrence and William. Lawrence has a poor, almost meager upbringing and was able to become successful through hard work and dedication. William on the other hand grows up wealthy but decides to try to make it on his own. Lawrence is an acclaimed writer, while William is struggling to get his work published. With so many parallels, it was easy to see why they were drawn to each other.

Generally the book was a good reference for people wanting to know more about Trinidad. However the story was too slow and too simple. All and all we would give the book a 2/5.

We're discussing And You Invited Me In in April. Check out our homepage for more information.

1 comment:

dkm1981 said...

It's a shame it was a poor read - I hate when a book is so similar to another one I've already read.
Nice blog by the way - I'm a new follower.

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