Monday 8 September, 2014

“ The first novel by Seychelles born and raised A.R. Tirant is a highly recommended read “.

From the opening lines the reader is drawn into a period long since evolved – whether for the better is a subject for debate.

The author manages to skilfully hold the reader’s attention as the story develops its numerous threads that set the stage for a flurry of love and passion in the midst of hardships suffered by the young community of the tiny archipelago at the turn of the last century. Her penmanship is particularly remarkable in the manner in which she paints the historical backdrop to the stage setting as she introduces the main players whose lives and passions intertwine with the historical events of that period slightly modified to add more spice to the tale.

The smallpox epidemic that devastated the island colony in 1883 is shifted to the same year as the outbreak of the First World War, adding a poignant commemoration to this centenary of the start of that conflict in August 1914.

As the reader is whisked from one scene to another and from one perspective to the next, the main story is never lost despite the many threads. The story of the beautiful Anna, a young passionate woman who, in her search of her own identity, breaks with the constraints of her class and rank in society, to fall in love with Louis du Barre, the son and heir of the landed gentry. The seemingly impossible romance in an era where social class, race and religion ruled supreme, takes the characters on a head on clash with all the norms and values of that period.

The social standing of the two main characters in the developing story vividly illustrates the taboos of a society deeply rooted in the “master servant” culture of our historical past as well as the major role played by the Catholic Church in moulding the morals and Christian values of the people. The tale weaves into the main cloth that other ominous feature of our historical past – the role of “gri gri” or voodooism that remains to this day deeply imbedded in the local psyche.

But perhaps to the author’s greatest credit is the illustration of the profound relationship that develops between the two main characters, Anna and her beloved Louis. The reader is drawn into this romance through the author’s touch for detail and ability to convey those inner emotions to which we can all relate. The climax – a romantic night of love and passion on the beach, which remains central to the story – is so vivid that we can almost sense the beauty of the place and the moment. It is also the start of a new thread for the tale – one that puts the taboos of the social mores of that society to light.

The book is a journey back in time for those of a certain age who knew a different Seychelles to the one we live in today. The tale recreates a myriad of characters that we will recognise from our past with all the nostalgia that it brings. This same strength could have the credit of whetting the appetite of the younger generation who, not having known that Seychelles, will hopefully be tempted to read more about the history of the islands of yore.

At the end of the day, the echoes from Anna’s oasis are of love, passion, hate and revenge – all those human traits that make for a very powerful read indeed.

The book is available at Antigone Bookshop in Victoria House Arcade and at Chanterelle Bookshop in the Creole Spirit Building, as well as online at Amazon in both Kindle e-book and Paperback.