Book review: “Gather the Faces” by Beryl Gilroy.
In this richly comic novel of Black British life, the heroine has resigned herself to growing old and single in her bible-soaked family. But when she is introduced to a young man from Guyana, she decides to marry him and return to the Caribbean. But will this be another entrapment, another loss of self? Gather the Faces is set in the nineteen-eighties in London and Guyana, but in some ways, looks back to an earlier era. Marvella, the heroine and narrator, leaves Guyana when she is three, and grows up in London where ‘At the back of the house, a bombed-out block stared at us, like a gaping mouth full of broken teeth. It represented what I had been taught of the world, the flesh and the devil.’ The Guyana to which she returns is an idyllic one, peopled with characters like Uncle Buff, the village man of words, who makes a speech to ‘Mr. Bride and Mrs. Groom’ before his ‘melancholy and surreptitious rendering of “”Bless this house””.’ Uncle Buff and the tranquil beauty of the Guyanese countryside recall an earlier work by Beryl Gilroy, Sunlight on Sweet Water, her reminiscences of a Guyanese childhood.
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