Reading about Sabrina Ramnanan’s love of Anne of Green Gables made me really want to read the debut novelist’s Nothing Like Love.
And it’s a good thing that I understood this about her reading past, because it prepared me perfectly for her prose style.
“Thinking back on this day much later, Vimla would understand: this was the pivotal moment in her and Krishna’s relationship. The moment when the gods witnessed their audacious sacrilege. The moment it was decided a torrent of misfortune would rain down upon the pair.”
A “torrent of misfortune”: Anne-lovers will recognize a hint of Anne’s “depths of despair” in this descriptor.
And just as Anne spent a great deal of time soaking up the beauty of the natural world, Vimla is immersed in it as well.
Though Vimla does not see cherry blossoms and the landscape of Prince Edward Island out her bedroom window. No, she paints a picture of Trinidad.
“Vimla opened her eyes and rolled onto her side. She listened to the kiskadee morning call and watched the flutters of black and yellow in the guava and tamarind trees at her bedroom window. They trilled and rustled in the treetops, cocking their heads at impossible angles and announcing their presence to the world: kis-kis-kiskadee!”
The plot in Nothing Like Love revolves around a series of relationships but two in particular.
“Vimla saw Faizal Mohammed lean out of his window and drink Sangita in with insatiable desire. Vimla knew that look well – she had seen it on Krishna’s face just hours ago; only then it had been muted in pre-dawn shadows and nerves.”
The tension is subtle and rooted primarily in fractured connections, in the gap between “what is desired” and “what is unobtainable”.
“The secret sent thrilling zings through his wiry body; he loved to know what others didn’t. And Faizal’s rain-barrel baths were a particularly safe secret, as he was the only Muslim in the district, the only one who rose before the cock’s first crow, before the sun peeked over the horizon, to wash, and to praise Allah.”
The narrative style is not entirely Anne-of-Green-Gables-influenced. Sabrina Ramnanan also uses dialogue to introduce readers to the rhythm of life in Trinidad.
“Vimla, it only have one woman and one man living in this house and that is me and your father,” Chandani said to her back. “If you feel you too big for we, pack your bags and go, nuh?”
The abundance of adjectives and adverbs and sensory detail might be overwhelming for many contemporary readers, but Anne-readers might find themselves falling in love.
Is this debut on your summer reading list?