June 8, 2006

Happy Birthday, George Lamming

“Rain, rain…my mother put her head through the window to let the neighbour know that I was nine, and they flattered me with the consolation that my birthday had brought showers of blessings” (9). So begins George Lamming’s classic novel, In the Castle of my Skin, which on the surface appears to be the singular recollections of a child, G, but is also the story of a boy’s relationship with his mother, and by extension the island of Barbados. Through G’s eyes, we catch glimpses of the complexity of mother and son interactions within the context of colonialism and poverty in the Caribbean, and his negotiations with his friends and grownups that feed his imagination.

But we don’t read novels for treatises; we read them for complex characters, a plausible plot, and rich narrative. In the Castle of my Skin delivers all three. We watch G. as he examines his world with stunning accuracy while he paints loving portraits of his mother, his childhood friends, and his village. And Lamming’s prose while sweeping in its range and precise in its details, always pushes the boundary of the literal into the anagogical:

“They sat in the shade of the cherry tree that spread out over the fences in all directions. The roots were in one yard, but its body bulged forth into another, and the branches stuck out over three or four more” (24).

Many of Lamming’s critics often mention the historical and the political aspects of the novel, but many fail to mention the beauty of his prose:

“At the habitual hour the taps were turned on and life flowed as it had when the sun came out and movement from the crossroads to the shops had started.” (233).

For In the Castle of my Skin, and much much, more, give thanks, George Lamming.


Abeni said...

Funny that I haven't read this book.Note to self-must get a copy as well as love in the time of cholera.

Anonymous said...

i'm so sorry. i completely forgot about the birthday livication for jamaica kincaid. maybe next year... *shaking head at forgetfulness*