Bernardine Evaristo’s novel, Mr. Loverman is the story of Barrington: a septuagenarian West Indian man who has finally reached the decision to come out as gay. His ever-shifting, highly complex situation is told from the perspectives of both Barrington and his Pentecostal Christian wife, Carmel. In another time, their voices might be referred to as dialects. But Ms. Evaristo goes deeper. She doesn’t just write how these characters talk; she writes how they think. And it is here that Ms. Evaristo displays her genius. For through her sure-footed, sometimes lyrical prose, she unmasks the patois of their souls.
For much of the novel, the narrative zig zags from the present to the past, as Barrington’s history is revealed. We learn how Barrington came to marry his wife and how they ended up making their home in the East End of London. We also learn of Morris, the man who becomes his lover and who Barrington hopes to get up the nerve to leave his wife for. This first half of the novel doesn’t so much feel like a “coming out” novel as a “staying in” novel. Indeed, it isn’t until the second half of the novel that the central dramatic question–namely: will Barrington come out?–is, at last gradually, organically answered. To reveal any more of the plot would be a disservice. Suffice it to say that Ms. Evaristo has some surprises in store. And what starts out as a superb character study becomes a well-plotted page-turner–leaving this queer reader completely satisfied.
Bernardine Evaristo’s Mr. Loverman is published Akashic.
Editor’s Note: Unfortunately this is not the first time Queer Reader has been late in reviewing a book. Once again, this tardiness should not denote any diminished enthusiasm for this title. Quite the opposite. This is the best novel Queer Reader has read in years.
UPDATE 3/10/15: Today it was announced that Mr. Loverman is a finalist for the Publishing Triangle’s Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction.
UPDATE 4/23/15: Tonight it was announced that Mr Loverman won the Publishing Triangle’s Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction.