Blood of Belvidere (Grenada)

book coverby Dunbar Campbell

Based on the modern metric of ACEs: Adverse Childhood Experiences, Scott MacDonald should expect an addictive adulthood. His father was a drunk, and his father’s father was a drunk. Scott often didn’t have enough to eat and had to wear his cousin Oliver’s hand-me-down clothes. Scott saw his mother get slapped around, yet despite having 4 children to think about, Mommy did not leave his father. Dad caused the deaths of the children’s pets:  First Trini, the pigeon that flew to Grenada from Trinidad, and later Rex, the dog that Mr. Farrow gave the kids to protect them.

We know now that even one ACE can reduce a person’s life expectancy by 20 years, and Scott has more bad luck to dodge than even that. A murderer called Planass, who keeps getting released from prison early by a corrupt government, has it in for Scott and his brother Rodney due to unresolved issues with their father, Hector MacDonald.

You know that bit in the Bible in Exodus (and Numbers and Deuteronomy and Jeremiah) where it says, “And the sins of the father shall be visited upon the children, unto the third and the fourth generation…”?) Besides thinking that was massively unfair, I used to think it referred to genetic diseases like diabetes. Not in this novel. In this novel it is a curse, visited upon General Malcolm MacDonald when he defeated a Grenada slave revolt led by Frenchman Julien Fedon.

Fedon’s revenge was to curse his family from 1795 unto the present day…actually seven or eight generations I believe.

Grenada mapThe Duncans and the MacDonalds bear this curse for supporting the British and being British.

Poor old Scott is a pretty nice guy, but his Dad Hector is an abusive drunk who has caused his family to hate him. Of course, he has plenty of pain in his own past. Pa, the grandfather, was a man everyone hated. They are all outcasts from Belvidere, the Fedon family plantation on the island. Looming over everything is Mount Qua Qua where Fedon was defeated and disappeared. Because his body was never found, the legend is that the black magic he learned from his Yoruba grandmother, brought from Nigeria as a slave woman, allowed him to escape and to live forever. He is said to roam the island on stormy nights on his white horse.

Who is Neil Farrow?

Grenada beachThe 4 children’s only protector on the island is Neil Farrow, a one-legged elderly black man who spent 3 years in a British prison for saving a white officer’s life. “They wanted us to dig trenches; they didn’t want black Grenadians killing white Germans,” he explains. (Blew my mind; obviously true.) Mr. Farrow lives next door to the MacDonalds and is the self-appointed guardian of the children. There is some unexplained black magic there. And hints that he is somehow wrapped up in, or perhaps related to, the legend of Fedon.

Unfortunately, the pig of a man who has seized control of Grenada in the wake of its independence from Britain, Gabbard is utterly ruthless and utterly corrupt. He identifies with Fedon, claiming everything he does is for God and Fedon. Fedon, the son of a French Catholic plantation owner and a free Colored mulatto woman, would have hated him. Gabbard is black, grew up poor on the island. His chief henchmen are Planass and Rabid. Sadly for them, Scott’s girlfriend Trini is thirsting for revenge for the killing of her father VIncent as he smuggled rum from Venezuela into the island (he was cutting into their profits).

Grenada on the World Stage

port with lots of housesI never understood why we (the USA) parachuted into Grenada in 1983. There was Vietnam before I was born and then our embassy in Iraq was seized and Canada hid the hostages next door, and then suddenly this island I never heard of was in the news. Why? I think it had to do with Ronald Reagan’s fear of Communism. That sucks.

When you hear the word Grenada, you probably think of Spain. The island was briefly claimed for Spain when Christopher Columbus sailed past it, but it has been inhabited by the Arawak Indians for 1,000 years way before that. It is thought that they fled to the island in canoes from the Amazon during some tribal warfare. They lived for an era the length of the Pax Romana, the Roman Peace, before the Carib Indians found them and invaded. The Caribs lived on the island for 500 years before the Europeans came. The Europeans fought over the island. The French held it for awhile, and then the British took it. And then the British ceded it to the native Grenadians. Then there was trouble.

Go

Gouyave

This was a good read, in which the day-to-day lives of ordinary Grenadians like Mr. Farrow and Mr. Welsh, the village’s only World War I veterans, were seamlessly interwoven with the plot. The smell of mangoes and the sound of the waves crashing on the beach, without which Scott has a hard time sleeping. Chinatown, where the prostitutes roam and the men drink shots of rum and cans of Carib beer. The sincere efforts of the students to follow in the footsteps of Castro and the Communist Revolution in Cuba, just as their ancestors had been inspired by the French Revolution. The efforts of women to be emotionally and financially independent of abusive men. The efforts of the descendants of slave and indentured servants, and also some descendants of their oppressors, to be finally free.

Rating: Five bowls of spicy fish stew with figs!

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