Barrington Jedidiah Walker.
Barry to his friends.
Trouble to his wife.
Seventy-four year old, Antiguan born and bred, flamboyant Hackney personality, Barry is known for his dapper taste and fondness of retro suits.
He is a husband, a father and a grandfather.
And for the past sixty years, he has been in a secret relationship with his childhood friend and soulmate, Morris.
Wife Carmel knows Barry has been cheating on her, but little does she know what is really going on. When their marriage goes into meltdown, Barrington has big choices to make.
I picked this book up for a work bookclub, my first Bernadine Evaristo, despite having Girl, Woman, Other on my bookshelf, also my first work bookclub.
Arriving with his wife Carmel from the Caribbean in his 20s, Barry makes a life for himself in the UK, he works and by his later years could be described as affluent, he embarks on adult education to better himself, he has 2 daughters and he has a social life. His best friend Morris lives nearby, arriving in England before Barry, Morris lived with his wife until she left him and returned to Antigua. Barry and Morris are lovers, they have a lifelong relationship and it is a secret.
Told in 2010 as Barry’s wife returns to Antigua for her father’s funeral, while she is away Barry reaches a decision to divorce his wife of fifty years and live with Morris. The story is then told in a then and now format, predominatly told in the voice of Barry, but we do also hear Carmel’s story, told more in a stream of consciousness, that I thought to be Carmel’s and spanning the last fifty years. As with any story spanning this length of time a number of topics are covered including parenting and post natal depression, friendships and I was impressed with the detail within this book. Very much Barry’s story but there were a number of sub stories which were stong and interesting threads.
As mentioned previously this was my first Bernadine Evaristo read and I must say I was impressed, it is no surprise to me that she went on to win the Man Booker Prize in 2019. A character driven story that covers a number of issues including religion, sexuality and race. I found Barry to be an engaging and flamboyant man who was hard not to like. That said he was flawed, his marriage to Carmel and the hurt caused by his secret relationship with Morris that preceded the marriage raised many questions that proved excellent to discuss in a book group. Sexist in many of his views and dishonest in his relationships he was an interesting chap, a lovable rogue perhaps. Clearly the characters were restricted by society, religious and cultural views, stigmatisation etc but it was sad how two lives felt wasted in a loveless marriage.
An excellent read exploring many themes in a highly accessible way. A cast of characters, all multi faceted, all with secrets and flaws, but collectively making up a wonderful cast of family and friends through which this story is told.
Have you read Mr Loverman? What did you think of Barry? Was he a bad person do you think? Tell me in the comments as I’d love to know.
About the Author
British writer Bernadine Evaristo is the author of eight books and numerous other works that span the genres of verse fiction, short fiction, poetry, essays, literary criticism, journalism and radion and theatre drama. Her writing and projects are based around her interest in tthe African diaspora. Her book Girl, Woman, Other won the 2019 Booker Prize. She is Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London. She was made an OBE in 2020, replacing her MBE, awarded in 2009.