Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Mrs. B- Elizabeth Walcott Hackshaw

A warm contemporary slice of Caribbean life.

Talk about the Caribbean islands and I begin to think about floral shirts, women wearing blossoms in their hair, moving around in flowing skirts and sleeveless tops. But how do the people living there feel about the changes engulfing the country, the rising violence, the political unrest that is shaping their country's present and future.

Elizabeth Hackshaw does a very good job of portraying the today of trinidad through the characters of Mrs. B, her husband Charles and their daughter Ruthie.


Mrs B and her husband Charles wait for their daughter Ruthie a student in Boston who takes a break from studies to a mental breakdown after a failed affair with a married professor.

At one level it is about relationships that of a mother and a child, a husband and wife and a of a childless woman who loves her neice as her own. While these relationships collide and blend according to situations, at the heart of it lies the changes in the community and country as people are forced to huddle in gated communities as a means of security against an unpredictable and insecure political climate.

What works:

  • The story is laid out well and Hackshaw does a great job of delving into the minds of characters and assess their perspectives.
  • The perspective of the young and the old is dealt with quite effectively. The liberal morals of the younger generation whereas the status conscious perception of the older generation is portrayed quite well.
  • It is not a plot driven story, for nothing really happens much and therefore the characters shine out well in the backdrop of some beautiful writing. Hackshaw shows off her writing skills as she flits between proper English and the Caribbean English at times. Very well done indeed.

What doesn't:

  • Since the focus is more on conveying a slice of Caribbean life, the thoughts and ideals of the modern people, it tends to sag a bit. But the characters more than make up for it.
  • I could never understand why the character was referred to as Mrs.B that stands for Butcher. Apparently, she hated the names and therefore the initial. It reminded me of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca where the heroine has no name or identity. But here it is not the case. Mrs. B is a strong character who affects situation but I still couldn't fathom the reason for not using her maiden name though it crops up in places.

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