A year ago, I was complaining to someone that there weren’t enough books by and about Trinidadian people (and West Indian people more broadly) in British bookshops. A few months later, I received a copy of Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud and it was exactly the kind of book I’d been craving.
Love After Love tells the story of three Indian-Trinidadians; widow Betty Ramdin, her son Solo and Mr Chetan. Some years after her husband’s death, Betty decides that she needs a lodger after meeting schoolteacher Mr Chetan. Mr Chetan moves in with Betty and her son and the three live together happily. One drunken night, Betty reveals a terrible secret to Mr Chetan that consequently rips their family apart.
Firstly, the novel’s language is lush. Written in Trini dialect, Persaud’s prose feels soothing and rhythmic. The novel’s lack of speech marks surprised me at first but I breezed through the pages. The story is told from the perspectives of Betty, Solo and Mr Chetan.
The plot remains interesting enough and subtly commands your attention all the way through. Initially, I thought the novel started off a little slow because the first big moment happens several chapters in. This wasn’t an issue for me though. I liked getting to know the characters and seeing the dynamics that form between Betty, Solo and Mr Chetan in those early chapters. This book is a slow burner, but it works because the characterisation is outstanding.
I was mostly intrigued by Mr Chetan in the beginning. He’s kind and easy-going. Like Betty, he is hiding a secret of his own. I didn’t anticipate how much Mr Chetan would change Betty and Solo’s lives, and I don’t think they did either.
I grew fonder of Mr Chetan with each chapter. He possesses a magnetic lovability and I desperately wanted him to find the happiness he deserves. One of my favourite things about Love After Love is the relationship between Betty and Mr Chetan. Romantic love takes a backseat here. Instead, there’s a huge focus on friendship and family which are at the heart of this powerful story. The evolution of Betty and Mr Chetan’s friendship, as well as the remarkable bond that grows between Mr Chetan and Solo, is beyond pure and heart-warming. These three characters are so interesting and complex.
Persaud beautifully and vividly shows the complexities of their relationships between one another. Solo’s arc in the book was another highlight for me, and his chapters had me gripped. At the start of the book, he is a young boy and by the novel’s end, he’s a grown man. He ends up fleeing Trinidad for New York, and boy, does he embark on a journey once he arrives in the States. New York City is not like the small, sunny Caribbean island that Solo grew up on.
The second half of the novel takes a slightly darker turn. The book addresses difficult themes including domestic abuse, self-harm and grief. Persaud’s writing immerses readers in Trini culture; the people, places, food and music. In a way, the book almost feels like a love letter to the island however Persaud doesn’t sugar-coat the uglier, unkinder sides of Trinidadian society, and the difficulties that certain people face within it.
Love After Love is as sad and heartbreaking as it is joyous and touching. I love this book so much and as a West Indian person, I felt at home while reading it. This breath-taking novel brought tears to my eyes and made me throw my head back with laughter. It’s a story about love in its various forms as well as family, friendship and forgiveness. If you enjoyed novels like Here Comes The Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn, you might enjoy this book too.
My rating: 10/10
Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud is published by Faber & Faber.
A big thank you to Louisa Joyner at Faber for giving me a proof copy of this novel.