This is an intense novel that culminates in some pretty horrific violence that is sort of foreshadowed throughout and hinted at and finally comes to pass.
There’s other novels that are similar in some ways — for example, Paul Scott’s The Jewel in the Crown or Doris Lessing’s The Grass is Singing — but where those novels begin with the violence and then start back to process and understand it, this one hints at it in the beginning and then barrels us forward until it finally happens. And so the effect is a kind of waiting for the shoe (or shoes) to drop.
The novel is about an island country in the Americas with a blended population and a large British colonial (post-colonial) presence. That presence weighs heavily on the country as it is trying to figure out its present and future landscapes. Introduced into this ambiguity is a white South African resistance activist, his white British female companion, and a biracial man from the island who dabbles in some kind of visionary and possibly prophetic orations. The political energy of the South African, Roche, and the British colonial energy of Jane creates a tension that plays out in the novel with the island energy of Jimmy (James Ahmed). Even an early scene in which all three give their pronunciations of the “Thurshcross” station, showing how the very language they share is already an alienating experience, how the politics of South Africa and the probably too liberal (and falsely moral) politics of England (ie that England maintains a false kind of moral superiority because it never devolved into the violence we might see in Rhodesia or South Africa — as an American, I think about the kind of moralizing surrounding the abolition of slavery some twenty years before the US performed as a kind of enlightenment as if those 20 years matter against centuries). So here you have England not experiencing colonial violence, but forgetting how it’s the progenitor of all violence in those colonial spaces. It’s similar to the playing of Mansfield Park against the violence and slavery of the colonies that provide the wealth, borrowing from Edward Said’s criticism.
Anyway, be warned. This is not a pretty or funny or pleasant novel.