FICTION

The Belle Créole

. Univ. of Virginia. Apr. 2020. 212p. from French by Nicole Simek. ISBN 9780813944227. pap. $21.95. LITERARY.
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Heartbreaking if splendidly, even lusciously, written, this new work from celebrated author Condé (Segu;I Tituba) explores the ongoing burdens of slavery, racism, and colonial rule through the story of reserved young Dieudonné, accused of murdering his employer and lover, an older woman named Loraine from Guadeloupe’s white Creole upper crust. He’s acquitted with the help of a clever lawyer who condescendingly speaks to him in Creole rather than French, but what is he free for now? Orphaned young and passed among various unsuitable households, he’s been living on La Belle Créole, a boat abandoned by a family who seemingly cared for him but ended up abandoning him as well, and he claims only homeless, full-of-himself poet Boris and the imprisoned Rodrigue as friends. But he genuinely loved hard-drinking, rebellious, tricky Loraine, and without this "burning core" of his life, he is desolate.
VERDICT In this masterly work, Condé makes the complexity of Dieudonné’s situation evident and his suffering vividly real.

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