This well presented book is a joyous, bubbling stream of short stories speckled with sunny asides and lush Caribbean vitality, personified by the eponymous grandmother. The reader is more of a listener, being entertained as the tales tumble out, although ostensibly she is telling her steamy stories to her young grandson as part of his education. Some stories are rose-tinted memories of the bizarre adventures of a beautiful young widow on a remote Trinidad island swarming with oversexed and under-occupied American soldiers during World War II. Others are traditional Caribbean folktales of magical animals and even stranger people.
Improbable characters pop in and out of the stories, glorying in names like On-the-Eggs, Toy Mishu, the Kentucky Colonel (Sanders) and Inestasia Rosa de los Cagones Domingo. While some of the folktales are more exotic than erotic, The Tale of How Crab-o Lost His Head is a Kipling-esque tease. Later, the intimate and touching tale of How Iguana Got Her Wrinkles is nearly left untold as a thief steals grandmother’s teeth. As more funny are told, the reader is left grinning from ear to ear. Chortle through the story of the Kentucky Colonel who, sick of chicken and chips, sets grandmother up in business as the Queen of Pizzas until a bent policeman takes the profits. Burlesque, aside, Robert Antoni’s farcical novel is skillfully written in colloquial Pidgin English (sheself for herself, he for his etc) to give a vernacular feel.

The author of Blessed is the Fruit and Divina Trace, which won the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, is one of the Caribbean’s leading young novelists. He has drawn on his family links in the area to produce a likeable novel that paints a cheerful picture of Caribbean life, history and folklore.

Jamie Carstairs

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