A Black Englishman - Carolyn Slaughter

***** An almost impossible encounter between cultures

This book is described in a somewhat misleading way and it was only after reading other reviews that I decided to read it. It is not at all the usual romance novel, and it is not characterised by a eroticism in its strict sense (in the scenes shown the main characters do almost nothing but talk!), but it is a story of the encounter between two very different cultures set more than ninety years ago, with all the difficulties that this entails.
Isabel is a rich Englishwoman, married to a soldier serving in India, who begins a relationship with an Indian doctor, educated in England and with strong ties to that country. The main problem against which their relationship hits is the one related to their different race, not so much for them but for the world around them. The events take place during the final stages of British domination in India and offer a poetic and at the same time ruthless insight of this country and the historical period.
The love story itself is very nice, even if it is hard to believe that in reality a devotion of this kind, so unwavering and without hesitation, could be possible, given the impossible challenges it has to deal with, but it is perhaps the only certain thing in a story full of uncertain factors, sometimes very violent ones. The style of the author is so addictive to give a full idea of the drama of certain moments together with the adventurous aspects. A sense of anxiety pervades the reader as the story moves toward its final part, requiring them to keep reading. You get to hate some characters, the terrible stories that are reported, not just those of the protagonists, and even India and England.
A bit unusual choice is to embed all the dialogues inside the rest of the text. This creates confusion at times, but it is a valid device that allows the protagonist, from whose point of view the whole story is told, to bring the facts to which she hasn’t assisted through the words of other characters and do it in a very effective way. It almost creates shifts in the point of view, without notice, that allow for a broader view of the story.
Remarkable is also the evocative power of the scenes, rich in powerful metaphors, capable of generating vivid images in the reader’s mind. You almost have the impression to perceive the smells, even unpleasant ones, the sounds, the colours of India itself, as you receive all the feelings, both positive and above all negative ones, related to abuse, torture, killings.
I do not like stories with a sad ending, in fact I hate them. The fact that it was listed as a romance novel made me hope, but I admit I feared the worst with the pressure of events. Luckily I was denied, but this has left in me the remembrance of a strong emotion that only good books can give: that one of having experienced first hand the story.
I want to make a small mention to one of the best characters of this novel: Joseph, the servant of Isabel. Although this is not one of the protagonists, his role is crucial and his evolution, the way in which he reveals to the reader, make him one of the most beautiful characters in which I have ever come across in a book.

A Black Englishman on Amazon.com.