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Mr Loverman by Bernadine Everisto - Review

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Because I loved Girl, Woman, Other so much, I had been thinking that I really should read something else by Bernadine Evaristo. Then I watched her on Imagine with Tom Stoppard which was really good, I liked the look at her life and work. I was intrigued by the premise of Mr Loverman, so I requested ut at my library. It came in quickly and I picked it up after my holiday. 

The main character and narrator is Barrington Walker, aged seventy-four, who was born in Antigua but who came to England in around 1960 with his wife Carmelita, known as Carmel. They had two daughters - Donna, in around 1960, and Maxine, in around 1970. Barry drinks a lot and after yet another altercation with his wife, he decides that he will finally leave her. Because, you see, Barry has been in a relationship with his friend Morris since they were fourteen. We see Barry try to cope with how to tell Carmel and also the history of their lives together. We see the lives of their daughters, the lives of Carmel's church friends, and the life of Morris, Barry's lover. 

There are also little points of view from Carmel, spaced at roughly every ten years. She suffered with post natal depression after Maxine was born, and Barry ended up looking after Maxine a lot, which is why she remains his favourite child. Carmel then got a job in housing for the local authority, and worked her way up. She assumes that Barry is having affairs with women and even, at one point, goes to a house Barry owns to try to catch him with a woman but finds only him and Morris there instead. Still, she has never put two and two together. 

Barry knows she won't take the news that he is leaving her and wants a divorce lying down. Barry is a rich man - he bought properties in the sixties and has prospered, meaning he's been able to support both his children and send his grandson Daniel to private school. He doesn't want to end up in Morris' studio attic flat (Morris won't take any money from Barry).

We learn that in 1989 Morris' wife Odette caught the two of them together and subsequently left Morris. She never told Carmel, but she did go back to Antigua where she opened up a spa hotel. Morris asked Barry to leave Carmel at this point, but he didn't feel he could. 

Before Barry can ask for the divorce, Carmel has to go to Antigua as her father - a violent man who terrorised her mother - is dying. Soon Donna joins her and Barry is left in charge of sixteen year old Daniel. Everything starts to fall apart. 

I loved the book - I liked Barry even though he's a reprehensible old drunk, and I wanted him to be happy. I liked the story of his marriage to Carmel and how they had both struggled. Both daughters were spoilt brats and I loved how Barry saw that and blamed himself. I liked his steady, quiet relationship with Morris. I liked the story of first generation immigrants from the Caribbean. I did feel like we didn't see enough of Morris' personality as I'd have liked, but I wonder if that was a deliberate choice - because he and Barry couldn't live together, he did have Morris on a little bit of a pedestal and had to keep him at a bit of a remove. I loved the look at older queer communities and how they identified... I don't want to give anything else away though!

I'm giving this five out of five and will definitely read something else by Bernadine in the future. I think she weaves together brilliant narratives, I think she'd a splendid writer. 

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