Crossing the Mangrove

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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 ...
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Crossing the Mangrove

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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.

None of the villagers are particularly surprised when Francis Sancher, a secretive amd melancholy man who predicted an unnatural death for himself, is found dead, face down in the mud. But, as the villagers pay their respects, each of them reveals another piece of the mystery behind Sancher's life and death.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Conde writes elegantly in a style that beautifully survives translation from the French...[she] gives readers a flavor of the French and Creole stew that is the Guadeloupan tongue.  In so doing, Conde conveys the many subtle distinctions of color, class, and language that made up this society."--Chicago Tribune
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385476331
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/28/1995
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 413,011
  • Product dimensions: 5.47 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.60 (d)

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