Mr. Loverman by Bernardine Evaristo


After Bernardine Evaristo won, well, co-won, the Booker Prize recently for her new book, I found her 2013 book in the library that has been on my TBR list. She is amazing, and I look forward to reading her new one, Girl, Woman, Other.

It’s hard to love the character Mr. Loverman, despite his many appealing qualities; Barry is a complex guy. He and all his friends were born in Antigua and migrated to London as young people. When we meet him, he is in his 70s, still good-looking, still married, and still madly in love with Morris, the man he has loved since they were teens. And still drinking heavily on a regular basis. He has been very successful financially and is an autodidact. Most of the book is his narrative, though a few chapters are told in his wife Carmel’s voice.

Though he had instances of supporting others and being a thoroughly good guy, he presents himself as a pretty self-centered person. He charmed Carmel into marrying him and managed to have two children with her, but his goal was to use her as a cover, making her a ruin of a woman. Carmel is threatening divorce because she thinks he is cheating with other women. Morris still wants him to leave Carmel and live openly with him and as the book jacket tell us, the question is whether Barry can overcome a lifelong habit of duplicity. All the characters are over the top:  one daughter mimics Carmel, the other Barry, Carmel’s church friends are ludicrous. It makes for very funny descriptions, yet somehow they ultimately have appeal and it’s a satisfying story.

Here’s an example of Barry, the let’s say “flawed” commentator:

Back in the kitchen, I decide to wash the crockery piled up in the sink, although quite how you remove encrusted food from a plate without resorting to a hammer and chisel is beyond me. Also beyond my particular area of domestic expertise is how you remove tea and coffee stains from mugs. Those stains is so engrained no amount of wiping with a dishcloth can shift them. Carmel must having a special cleaning procedure she inherited from her mother. Women have these skills they pass down through the generations, like secret rites, like how to give birth to children and how to give men grief.

On the plus side, he de-stresses himself by reading The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell “to bring the repression of the Indian Mutiny into my living room and transport me back in time, away from the trials and tribulations of the mutinous Morris.” Having recently read that book, it was nice to see the reference.

Bernardine Evaristo, Mr. Loverman, US publisher Akashic Books, 2014, 284 pages. Available in the UVa and public libraries and from Amazon.

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