First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
On 15 August 1791, the Day of the Assumption of the Virgin, a great uprising commenced which was to make Haiti – under Toussaint L’Ouverture – the world’s first independent black republic and the first society to abolish slavery after the French Revolution. This key date lies behind Pierre Clitandre’s sweeping story of contemporary Haiti.
Through the eyes of the poorest people of the Americas – the higglers, the washerwomen, the tap-tap drivers of the shantytowns crowding around Port-au-Prince – we experience the dynamic current of history that has brought Haiti once again to rebellion.
Woven from many characters and stories is the lyrical tapestry of a people, fascinating and complex. Bridget Jones puts into a lively West Indian English this pageant of Haitian history, symbols and beliefs.
Another work week is done and over with. It was, as always, filled with challenges, but hey, we saw it through despite the challenging times. So chin up and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done. Getting through the week, in these conditions, is in itself rewarding. I hope you take the weekend to rest and recuperate. I also hope that everyone is doing well in these challenging and uncertain times. I hope and pray for everyone’s wellbeing, for everyone’s healing. With this, I am also one with the entire world in praying that this pandemic will end soon.
The last day of the work week also means another First Impression Friday update. In May, I immersed in the works of Latin American and Caribbean literature. Still, I felt like it wasn’t enough so I decided extend my stay in this part of the literary world this June. I was just in awe of the variety the first six novels I have read that I was hoping to discover more gems in these literary works. As such, I am currently reading my first novel set in Haiti (if my memory serves me right). I recently bought a copy of Pierre Clitandre’s Cathedral of the August Heat. The book’s subtitle – “a novel of Haiti” – was the first thing that piqued my interest for I have never read any works by Haitian authors previously.
Interestingly, over the course of the six books I finished last month, I have read two novels set in Haiti’s neighboring Dominican Republic but I have yet to read one set in Haiti. I guess this is also the primary reason why I picked it up ahead of the other books currently gathering dust in my bookshelf. I just started reading Cathedral of the August Heat; I completed Jose Donoso’s A House in the Country earlier today. The book is a slender one so despite reading a couple of pages, I have covered a substantial amount of prose already. Without further ado, Clitandre threw the readers into the heat of the action, or at least into the heart of the narrative.
From the onset, Clitandre subtly lays out his characters as the novel promises itself to be a representation of the story of the common Haitian man. At the onset, the readers are transported on a bus driven by a man named John. He has a son named Raphael who was baptized on the 24th of June. His wife left him for another man. But whilst the father and son tandem seem to be the focus of the narrative, the story started to diverge as several details are unveiled. Clitandre began to capture the realities of Haitian life. A score of characters were also introduced. The story is starting to feel like a vignette of seemingly interrelated story, which, for the sake of the story, is a correct presumption on my part.
As I have said, the novel is a slender one, less than 200 pages and I know I will finish it soon enough, perhaps tomorrow. What I am hoping for is that, despite its deceptively thin package, Clitandre managed to truly capture a full and vivid picture of quotidian Haitian life, which, I can understand was his aim in writing the novel. I am also hoping that I get a better and deeper understanding of the Caribbean nation, its history, society, culture and people, albeit a fleeting one (I do hope not) considering the novel’s length. But who knows? Big things come out in small packages, so the adage goes.
How about you fellow reader, what book are you going to read this weekend? I hope it is a book that you’ve been looking forward to and I hope you enjoy it. Keep safe, and happy weekend