A Distant Shore by Caryl Phillips

Seven Black British literature books down, one more to go. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to read Courttia Newland’s The Scholar, but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to complete it over Thanksgiving break. I just finished Caryl Phillips’ Distant Shore last night, and I must say that it was good enough to post about. Now, the summary sounds a little dry, I will admit that, but the book maintains your attention because Phillips refuses to give you all the details you need at once. Usually when I finish a book, I slam it closed and enjoy the freedom of doing whatever else pleases me, but when I finished Phillips book, I took another five minutes to read the summaries for his other titles. This will definitely not be the last book I read by this author.

a distant shoreA Distant Shore juxtaposes two worlds in an English cul-de-sac. Dorothy and Solomon are neighbours who find an awkward intimacy when Solomon begins driving Dorothy to her weekly doctor’s appointments. She – a retired music teacher, disgusted by the decay of manners around her – is impressed by his driving gloves. He – a refugee from an African civil war, employed on the estate as nightwatchman – is beguiled by the pride which holds her apart from their more vulgar neighbours.

This pastiche of Driving Miss Daisy is haunted by the threat of miscegenation, for which Dorothy and Solomon are eventually punished by their bigoted community. She is quietly cracking up, and when she takes a demented trip to the coast to visit her dead sister, Solomon is beaten up and dumped in the canal by the village thugs.

This is a bleak world all right, but to Phillips’s mind it’s not without hope. ‘Dorothy and Solomon driving in a car together to the hospital: you know people are looking at them and thinking, “What is this 30-year-old African dude doing with this 55-year-old white woman?” But because we’re in the novel, it hasn’t occurred to us that we might stare at them if we saw them, and the reason we’re with them is because we understand their stories.’ (Read more…)

With that book out of the way, I’ve started Jackie Kay’s Trumpet. Just as my eyes began to droop based on the pace of the narrative, Kay hit me with a doozy. I don’t know if the secret is enough to maintain my attention though. I mean, I don’t have a choice, I have to read it, but… There’s no need to even post an excerpt because it takes about 40 pages for the book to hook you. Summary, shall we?

The death of legendary jazz trumpeter Joss Moody exposes an extraordinary secret, one that enrages his adopted son, Colman, leading him to collude with a tabloid journalist. Besieged by the press, his widow Millie flees to a remote Scottish village, where she seeks solace in memories of their marriage. The reminiscences of those who knew Joss Moody render a moving portrait of a shared life founded on an intricate lie, one that preserved a rare, unconditional love.

As you can tell, I was nice enough to post a summary that didn’t reveal the book’s secret. When I found out, I was like…that wasn’t on the back cover! What am I really reading about here?

I’d love to say more, but my Octavia Butler bibliographic research is due in a week. Needless to say, I have to dedicate my time to that…happy reading ya’ll.

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