One People by Guy Kennaway

4 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

On the northwest of the island of Jamacia is a tiny hamlet called Cousin Cove. It is alongside the sea and it is full of larger-than-life characters who are making the best of the life that they have there. There are no secrets in this place and as soon as anything of interest begins to happen people are drawn in to see what is happening.

There are eleven short interconnected stories in the book, with a rich array of characters in each. They are always on the lookout to supplement their meagre incomes but any means, fair or foul and had nothing to lose by taking a chance. Most people, especially tourists didn’t stop unless they happened to come unstuck on the road in. There were always lads waiting to help them out of the swamp in the hope of a few dollars.

Other stories concern those asked to look after tourists second homes and are quite surprised to find that they have returned without telling them they were returning. They have half an hour to reclaim the possessions that have been borrowed by other villagers. They all dream of getting of the island, something that they are very unlikely to ever have the chance of. Half of them have no idea where their birth certificate is.

My favourite story was Tree Bay Gyal. It is about three women who are using every trick they know to seduce a tourist. They, along with everyone else in Cousin Cove have plans for a money-making scheme and yet almost none get off the ground. Like all the other stories, there is always the scent of ganja in the background as they mull over their lives at the end of a spliff.

Kennaway has painted this evocative image of a tiny Jamaican village and I really liked this. It has a dark streak of humour that runs all the way through the story as we learn how the characters try to make money from the various schemes they concoct. The patois took me a little while to get used to, but it feels authentic. I can recommend this is you want a little insight into how life was in Jamacia in the 1990s.

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  1. Liz Dexter

    One of your few fiction books for the year? This does sound like my cup of tea.

    • Paul

      It is, though I did read four more fiction books on holiday!

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