Crossing the Mangrove

Crossing the Mangrove

4.0 1
by Maryse CondT
     
 

In this beautifully crafted, Rashomon-like novel, Maryse Conde has written a gripping story imbued with all the nuances and traditions of Caribbean culture. Francis Sancher--a handsome outsider, loved by some and reviled by others--is found dead, face down in the mud on a path outside Riviere au Sel, a small village in Guadeloupe.  None of the villagers are… See more details below

Overview

In this beautifully crafted, Rashomon-like novel, Maryse Conde has written a gripping story imbued with all the nuances and traditions of Caribbean culture. Francis Sancher--a handsome outsider, loved by some and reviled by others--is found dead, face down in the mud on a path outside Riviere au Sel, a small village in Guadeloupe.  None of the villagers are particularly surprised, since Sancher, a secretive and melancholy man, had often predicted an unnatural death for himself.  As the villagers come to pay their respects they each--either in a speech to the mourners, or in an internal monologue--reveal another piece of the mystery behind Sancher's life and death.  Like pieces of an elaborate puzzle, their memories interlock to create a rich and intriguing portrait of a man and a community. In the lush and vivid prose for which she has become famous, Conde has constructed a Guadeloupean wake for Francis Sancher.  Retaining the full color and vibrance of Conde's homeland, Crossing the Mangrove pays homage to Guadeloupe in both subject and structure.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
``Perhaps we should weed out from our heads the Guinea grass and quitch grass of our old grudges. Perhaps we should teach our hearts a new beat,'' muses the clairvoyant Mama Sonson as she joins in the curious wake for Francis Sancher, a stranger who died while visiting the French island of Guadeloupe. All the people attending ponder his identity and also his effect on their lives. Was he a writer? Drug dealer? Doctor? Cuban? One thing is certain: Sancher, a handsome mulatto on an island besieged by concerns over skin color, turns everyone's hatreds and passions inside out. Economic woes (dependable sugarcane, sweet relic, has been replaced by banana plantations); political woes (``the torpor of this sterile land that has never managed to produce a revolution''); ethnic woes (French French are viewed as bourgeois buffoons and immigrant Haitians as louts); personal woes (bad marriages, incestuous affairs, unloved children, genetic ailment and tragedy have left no family unscathed): All such recriminations find their way into a wake for a man who has left two town daughters pregnant and whose personal creed was touched more by love than by hatred. Readers will find a range of bitter sadness in Cond's (Segu) vision, and at the same time, they will delight in her descriptions of the ``desecrated cathedral'' of a forest or the ``rough fondling'' of a swimming hole. Cond's unconventional narrative, in which disparate voices take turns mourning or celebrating Sancher, paradoxically risks seeming formulaic, and many of her transitions are self-consciously abrupt, but this rich web of lives has a lush, trembling beauty that seems nearly ready, by the end of the wake, to heed Mama Sonson's desperately needed advice. (Mar.)
Library Journal
No one knows where Francis Sancher came from, but when the mysterious doctor dies, all of Rivire au Sel attends his wake. The people of this Guadeloupean village-friends, teachers, lovers, and enemies-recount the rumors, family conflicts, and superstitions that focused on this stranger, and in so doing reveal the wider history of their island culture. Conde, the author of I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem (LJ 7/92), vividly evokes the complexities of a color caste system pitting Indians against Haitians as well as Creoles against "French French" in a struggle for power and status. A lively translation, liberally spiced with Creole expressions, plunges the reader into this exotic world where secrets well up like springs in the rain forest, and one person's death brings new life to many others. Recommended for special collections as well as general readers.-Paul E. Hutchison, Bellefonte, Pa.
George Needham
Francis Sancher is the mysterious, handsome stranger on the island of Guadeloupe. He is loud and boisterous, talks in riddles, and speaks openly about his impending death. Some of the island's residents love him, others hate or fear him, but everyone has an opinion. Thus, no one is surprised when he is found face down in the mud, dead without any visible cause of death. As the islanders gather for his funeral, their internal monologues and declamations over the corpse each contribute to the picture the reader forms of Sancher. Was he a Cuban revolutionary, fighting beside Castro until he grew weary of the bloodshed? Or was he a doctor who aided the victims of the war in Angola? Was he, as some whisper, an escaped murderer? He has not helped his reputation by impregnating two young women, nor by befriending the island's outcasts, but appropriately, Conde leaves the final judgments to the reader. Despite a fairly clumsy translation, which often uses footnotes instead of conveying the meaning of unfamiliar terms within the context of the story, this atmospheric novel is quite powerful.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307787705
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/02/2011
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
613,026
File size:
2 MB

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