About the Book
Irrepressible Betty Ramdin, her shy son Solo and their marvellous lodger, Mr Chetan, form an unconventional household. Happy in their differences, they build a home together.
Home: the place keeping these three safe from an increasingly dangerous world – until the night when a glass of rum, a heart-to-heart and a terrible truth explodes the family unit, driving them apart.
Format: Paperback (410 pages) Publisher: Faber
Publication date: 14th January 2021 Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Find Love After Love on Goodreads
Winner of the Costa First Novel Award in 2020, Love After Love is the touching story of two rather lonely souls – Betty Ramdin and Mr Chetan, and Betty’s son Solo. Betty is a widow who experienced violence during her marriage. Solo feels the absence of a father and is withdrawn and friendless. Mr Chetan has secrets of his own and longs to be part of family. Through mutual affection and laughter, the three of them form a happy household unit. As Mr Chetan observes, ‘People have all kind of families’. Unfortunately their amiable arrangement doesn’t last and Betty finds herself estranged from her son.
Over the course of several years, events in the lives of Betty, Solo and Mr Chetan encompass topics such as the plight of undocumented migrants in the United States, racial and sexual discrimination, and mental illness. The book explores whether a terrible act, even if carried out in order to protect another, can ever be forgiven and whether bonds which seem broken irrevocably can ever be mended.
The three characters are so well-drawn that it’s impossible not to feel both sympathy for – and, at times, frustration with – each of them as they face their different personal struggles, their disappointments and their shattered dreams. I found Mr Chetan’s story particularly affecting. I’ll admit to shedding tears at one point and silently begging the author, ‘No, you can’t do that!’ As Betty reflects, ‘We are forever getting more than we can bear. Always’.
Although it took me a while to adjust to the use of patois and the rhythm of the prose, it really brought the story alive and I enjoyed being introduced to Trinidadian idioms such as ‘I don’t want to put goat mouth on it’, ‘Every bread has its cheese’ or ‘Monkey know which tree to climb’. (Sorry, you’ll have to look them up if you can’t work them out for yourself!) I also loved learning about the food, customs and culture of Trinidad.
Love After Love has been languishing in my TBR pile for several months and it was only because I needed a book to match a category in the What’s In A Name Challenge 2021 that I took it down from the bookshelf. I’m so glad I did. At times heart-warming and at others heart-breaking, I absolutely adored Love After Love and I can understand why it has garnered so much praise from readers.
In three words: Emotional, immersive, tender
Try something similar: This Lovely City by Louise Hare
About the Author
Born in Trinidad, Ingrid Persaud won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2017 and the BBC National Short Story Award in 2018. She read law at the LSE and was an academic before studying fine art at Goldsmiths and Central Saint Martins. Her writing has appeared in Granta, Prospect, the Guardian, the Independent, National Geographic, Five Dials and Pree magazines. She lives in London. (Photo: Twitter profile)