Narpat, 55, and Dulari live with their three girls and one son, Jeeves, in the village of Lengua in Trinidad. Narpat, an East Indian in constant conflict with his world, is a cane farmer with high ideals and great ambitions. He runs for village council, wins and helps the local farmers win full title to their land. His endlessly prickly personality, however, keeps everyone at bay. Next, he plans to build his own cane factory so the farmers can obtain a just price for their crops.
This is also the story of Jeeves, the youngest child, who loves his father despite his failings, and we learn how deeply the old man has affected the character of the boy. This is also the story of rural Trinidad itself, a rich tropical world of red mangoes, bats, insects, pineapple, coconut jelly, cucumber stems and eccentric characters. The city and the government always lurk in the background ready to control Narpat’s life. Narpat’s struggle often takes the form of stringent dietary restrictions (no sugar, no oils, no fats) and resistance to most of the trappings of the modern world, such as television and movies. Narpat, whose motto is “Even if I have to die in this field, no one will take it from me,” is a fully realized character, at times likable, but more often maddeningly self-righteous. The three daughters, however, are almost indistinguishable from each other. Altogether, this abundant novel, with its peculiar Trinidadian English dialogue (“What sort of work your father does do, boy?”), proves to be a rich feast of place and language.