#BlackLoveBooks Challenge Day 14: Fiction Love Story
“Magic and myth–fiction as we call it” is how Tiphanie Yanique refers to her novel Land of Love and Drowning in her Author’s Note at the end of the book. The novel is loosely based on her own family’s history in her native land of St. Thomas, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The novel begins in the early 1900s when the Danish West Indies become the U.S. Virgin Islands. With the backdrop of the change in political rule on the islands, the novel follows one family across sixty years.
Captain Owen Arthur Bradshaw dies when his ship sinks after crashing into a reef. He leaves behind an illegitimate son, his wife Antoinette, and their daughters Eona and Anette. “Anette Bradshaw will be as different from her elder sister as water is from land. The elder sister will be so stunning that men will scare of her. But not Anette.” Both sisters have “gifts” which gives the book a mystic element.
The novel alternates between different speakers, including Anette who begins her narration even before she is born. She calls herself the family historian, while in other parts of the novel, Eona carries on her mother’s tradition of passing down the family’s oral history, albeit with some falsehoods.
Land of Love and Drowning is the first book I’ve read set in the Virgin Islands. I liked the historical fiction aspect of it. Though the islands clearly have been colonized–Captain Bradshaw has mixed European and African lineage–absent is the usual racial discrimination that a novel set in America around the same time period would have. At nearly 400 pages, the novel has elements of love, broken relationships, affairs and even incest. It was an epic read.