Monday, 4 July 2016

BUZZ ON BOOKS: New and noteworthy titles from Garfield Ellis, Jacqueline Bishop and W.B. Garvey

PAGE BY PAGE: Critics hail Ellis' and Garvey's new books as bonafide pageturners. (below) Author Jacqueline Bishop.

Garfield Ellis has made a name for himself in local literary circles as a storyteller who knowingly explores the frailty of human nature, family dynamics and everyday struggles in works that are compulsively readable. If the critics are to be believed, his latest effort will leave fans satisfied.

The Angel’s Share (Akashic Books) introduces readers to go-getter Everton Dorrill, who is excelling on the job at a local beverage company until his father ups and leaves, determined to track down the woman he fell in love with 35 years ago. Concerned about the old man’s well-being, Everton decides to sacrifice a week to go after him. What results is a soul-searching, life-changing journey that unearths past failings and long-buried family skeletons.

A former James Michener fellow at the University of Miami, whose previous efforts include Flaming Hearts, Wake Rasta and Such As I Have, Ellis’ long list of admirers include Rachel Manley (who calls The Angel’s Share “a compelling novel”) and Olive Senior, who found it a revelatory pageturner. Says Senior, “Ellis’ inhabits his story of a lost-and-found father and a host of engaging characters and breathtaking incidents with skill, humour and honesty.”

A big literary hit that was honoured with a nomination for this year’s OCM Bocas Literary Prize, Jacqueline Bishop’s collection The Gymnast and Other Positions: Stories, Essays, Interviews (Peepal Tree Press) still has readers raving. Clearly, they can’t get enough of the book’s exploration of “conscious areas of expression”, interviews investigating the writing life and reflections on inspiration spanning travel and Jamaican lore, Roger Mais and Claude McKay.

What is it about the construction of the Panama Canal and its related events that has writers at home and abroad churning out nostalgia-rich books season after season? Now comes W.B. Garvey’s White Gold (Jonkro Books), the tale of an ambitious young railroad engineer struggling to build a better life while juggling a wife and mistress. But, as Garvey’s book highlights, there was no shortage of men like this youngster (one William Peterson) – the machinists, the masons, the mechanics and the crooks – who flocked to Panama to help build the Canal but ended up learning that there’s more to life than money, duty and machines.

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