Is this the definitive coup novel that Trinidad and Tobago needs? No, perhaps it is not. This is emotionally-charged fictive reportage, a dizzyingly ambitious treatment that inevitably falls short, but has the assiduous and requisite strength to at least fall well.
In sensitive, brave prose marked by forays into repetitiveness , Roffey shows the reader that human animals all respond in essentially the same ways, when staring down the steel barrel of their own fear. Though House of Ashes cannot be thought of as a coup primer, what it gets undeniably right is our primordial response to terrorism. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new comments via email. Notify me of new posts via email. Return to Book Page.
Preview — House of Ashes by Monique Roffey. The City of Silk is seething. The corrupt government has been ruling over the people too long and the city is becoming restless.
Then one hot evening The Leader, a head of a group of rebels, gathers his followers and tells them: For ourselves, and our fellow countrymen of Sans Amen. Together they will take back what is rightfully theirs. Caught up in the madness is Ashes. A bookish, learned man, he has been swept up by The Leader's powerful rhetoric.
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But now that words have turned to action he is not so sure anymore. And trapped inside the government building with the rebels is Aspasia. A proud woman, a mother of boys, she sees much of her sons in these boys with guns in their hands and power in their eyes. Hardcover , pages.
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House of Ashes by Monique Roffey — Lonesome Reader
Lists with This Book. Dec 20, Ian Mond rated it liked it. No matter how well acted or directed the movie, I always experience a crushing sense of betrayal when I discover that the majority of the film, including a number of the pivotal scenes, were completely made-up. This then raises the obvious question — why bother with an invented Caribbean island, why not just provide a historical, but fictional, account of the coup?
Instead they reflect a writer playing with fire… She glances around as if we are being watched. I look around too. Her paranoia is reasonable. The religious group behind the uprising remains active. She has no desire to be a female Salman Rushdie. A year was spent talking it over with her psychoanalyst. What pushed the idea off the couch and on to the page was a Commission of Inquiry held in Its report was delivered in March and after that the words flew out of her.
But when faced with potential death threats, I can absolutely appreciate why common sense might prevail. The focus of House of Ashes is the message rather than the historical truth. While on the decline, the coup remains a common form of power change in the world. Beyond the themes of the novel, the narrative is tense, gripping and confronting. Roffey does an excellent job in detailing the adrenalin charged horror of the first moments of the coup and the mix of boredom, fear and loss of dignity that settles in once the food runs out and a corner of the room becomes a latrine.
Throughout it all, though, the ghost of the coup lingers. Unlike a Hollywood film, Roffey wants to give us a true accounting of what happened in Trinidad and Tobago in and why.
However, genuine fear of reprisal means that what could have been a powerful and relevant novel never fully comes together. Dec 16, Josie rated it liked it.
A vigorous, grimly absorbing tale of a bloody Caribbean coup
This is the 4th of Monique Roffey's novels that I have read, and I felt this one was particularly political, compared to her others. Told through various viewpoints, I felt mostly drawn to Ashes, and was somewhat disappointed that the final part of the book was centred around another character, Breeze. An overall enjoyable read. May 17, Tripfiction rated it it was amazing. However, as the author says, the action has much in common with attempted coups in other parts of the world, and in my opinion gives an insight into much of the unrest that is taking place all over the world today. The story starts as seen through the eyes of Ashes, a quiet studious family man.
Then one afternoon Ashes turns up to prayers, and by the time he leaves his life has changed for ever. As events unfold, not quite as the revolutionaries imagine, the action shifts to the House of Power — and the narrative moves between Ashes and Mrs Garland, Minister for the Environment, one of the hostages. The fears, emotions and doubts experienced by hostages and captors are portrayed expressively, and the action rises and falls according to what is going on inside the House, and what can be observed of the outside through the windows — at one stage Kate Adie is seen, so you know things are bad!
At the end of the book the story is rounded off well.
I found this a fascinating and gripping book. The perspective of Mrs Garland hostage was very thought provoking, and some of the conversations she has with the revolutionaries made me compare these fictional events to current world affairs. Her discussions about the realities of government, compared to the version fed to the young gunmen, and her thoughts as to what the future of these young impressionable men should be once the current events have run their course, are very thought provoking. Some of the characters appeared so seldom in the book, that I needed, on a few occasions, to flick back to check who they were, but that may say more about my memory for names than anything else!
The author uses words peculiar to Trinidad in her writing, and it is a pity that these are not translated at the back of the book. Every time the liberators become oppressors. In this new novel she expertly does the same, but focuses on one big violent political event and the consequences of such calamitous action. Many of the boys involved come from impoverished backgrounds and are easily swayed by the didactic teachings of the commune's Leader.
They are banded together through desperation more than natural kinship which has created a tight and particular kind of camaraderie: The story switches perspectives between Ashes who storms the government without even knowing how to load a gun and Aspartame Garland, a female minister for environmental affairs. Over a period of six days the insurgents inhabit the House surrounded by the stalwart army outside.
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Through this extreme event people's true nature's emerge with all their complicated pasts and core beliefs: She demonstrates a memorable tenacity and acts as a voice of a common person who works hard and isn't deluded by grandiose visions of utopian ideology. The leatherback sea turtle which returns to Sans Amen to lay its eggs takes on a symbolic value in the novel. Although the stories of the characters involved are engagingly particular and personal, Roffey is skilful in incorporating the larger political and historical issues which have built up to this hostile takeover. It was as if they had caught something, like a flu or a cold, except the thing they caught was corruption.
Above the great government House created under Queen Victoria's reign hangs a great dragon. It had something to do with a blindness rather than seeing. Roffey shows the full complexity of such a dramatic societal change. There is sheer physical strain of enduring depravation and terror for multiple days. Emotions run high as the body is run down. I was totally gripped and nervous to know what the outcome would be. The novel builds to a climactic conclusion for the revolution and the plays out further towards a surprising ending that will make you want to quickly read on till the last page.
This is a book that makes an impact upon you subconsciously so that it's cumulative meaning is only felt when you've put it down. Aloneness makes of us something so much more than we are in the midst of others whose claim is that they know us. Stuck in a Book.