Author: Harripersad Samaroo
Publisher: Troubador Publishing
Publication Date: 14 October 2020
Format: eBook - EPUB
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: ARC via NetGalley
Usati is a four year old growing up in Sunnyvale, a small, poor and remote sugar cane farming village in Trinidad in the 1940’s. He describes the world he sees, and captures the language and culture of the mainly illiterate peasant workers who live around him. There is widespread belief in black magic, and nearby is the infamous silk-cotton tree which houses the evil spirits who are responsible for all the ills of the village. Usati looks after his two younger siblings. Even as a four year old he has to be a human shield for the neighbour on several occasions in the face of domestic violence. Life is hard and brutal with constant fear of violence and beatings.
Following his mother’s death the children are brought up by their grandparents, but there are further constant upheavals within the family. Violence remains within all parts of this society, as is crime and suffering. Usati observes how his family suffers through their illiteracy and the society within which they live.
Usati battles for a good education. He vows to bring literacy to the village and to fight against the cruelty that surrounds him. Usati and B started as teenage lovers, but can their love survive and endure a lifetime from the wicked curse and traumas of the intervening years?
Before reading The Cursed Village my only knowledge of Trinidad was where it was on the map, so what I enjoyed most about this book was the insight into the country's culture and folk beliefs. There were some large and dark themes in the story. However, I struggled to connect with it on any deep level, and I think the narrative voice had a lot to do with that. At times the prose/narration seemed to suit the age of the narrator, but at other times it didn't, which was jarring. I also found the manner of addressing foreign words and accents off-putting. The phonetics were a tad overdone in places. The accent could have been shown without going so full on that bracketed explanations after words became necessary. It might have helped to have the glossary at the start instead of the end, so readers could view that first. Then the extensive in-text explanations could have been omitted. But this is now me speaking with my translator and editor hats on, rather than as a simple reader. Overall I am glad I read The Cursed Village as it gave me new knowledge on a foreign culture, but as a story I felt it needed more editing to improve both voice and pacing. As such, I am giving it three stars.
I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.