Review: Mr Loverman by Bernadine Evaristo

It’s only when you about to enter a Conflict Zone that you realize how entrenched you are in your so-called Comfort Zone.

Barrington Jeddiah Walker is seventy-four, Antiguan born and bred, father to two daughters, grandfather to one. Married and gay. For the past sixty years he’s been in a secret relationship with his best friend, Morris. His wife Carmel suspects, in fact definitely knows, that he has been cheating on her all these years, but wrongly assumes it’s with other women.

When a family bereavement calls Carmel back home to Antigua, Barry, as he’s know to his friends must face up to the reality of his life and make some hard choices: to come out of the so-called closet and potentially ruin his relationship with his family forever, or stay within a marriage and life that has cheated him out of what he really wants: to spend with rest of his old age with his soulmate Morris.

Mr Loverman, had the potential to be all kinds of melodrama, given the subject matter. But it instead it was heart warmingly funny, and life affirming. Yes it was sad to think of all the years of regret the characters had, especially Carmel considering all the hopes she had as a young bride. But at the same I was rooting for everybody in this tale of living life on your own terms, not defined by anyone except yourself.

I couldn’t help but to fall in love with Barry despite his deceit (fifty odd years of adultery is no joke). His raconteur style of speech, complete with his own ‘isms’ and ‘isations’, his cheeky asides, and his take on love and life in Britain, showed him to be who he was – a flamboyant, loveable old man, refusing to accept old age as the final stop in his journey of life. His relationship with Morris, serves as a comedic foil but also shows the breadth and depth of their relationship, as Morris faithfully stood by longing for the day when they could finally be honest about the nature of their relationship .

Evaristo’s poetic writing style is put to powerful effect, as she effortlessly switches to Carmel’s ‘songs’, where she voices her own regret and pain at what her life should been, her erotic longings (and leanings), before culminating in an enthusiastic, breathtaking song of freedom. It was a really good touch to have Carmel’s voice breaking in between chapters, as it serves as a poignant counterpoint to which Barry’s point of view, where he sees her as an overly religious, nagging wife, hellbent along with her sisterhood of church friends, on stopping him from enjoying his life.

Mr Loverman skilfully addresses issues of same-sex relationships in an older Caribbean community, with a warmth and sensitivity that you see very rarely. It also addresses race and gender, as well the pains of growing older with regret, the desire to right past wrongs and the often all-too- complex dynamics of family. Evaristo doesn’t preach, but gives you enough to pause and think about, in between shaking with laughter, or taking a much needed deep breath as the familial tensions hit a climax.

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