When the charismatic Isaac Shepherd returns to the island of San Christobal it is to lead an independence movement that for a time unites all the island’s diverse groups – Africans, Indians and Chinese – against the colonial establishment. But each group relates in different ways to colonialism and their failure to communicate openly about those differences leads to mutual suspicions that provide their enemies with the means to destroy them. Parallel to the world of the political leaders is the tight bond between their sons, including the white son of the reactionary chief of police, and Ma Shepherd, Isaac Shepherd’s mother. They are the Age and Innocence of the novel’s title, though the nature of innocence is thoroughly deconstructed.
In what is still one of the most insightful explorations of the nature of race and ethnicity in colonial and postcolonial societies, Lamming reaches far beneath the surface of ethnic difference into the very heart of the processes of perception, communication and coming to knowledge. In a classic novel that is tense and tragic in its denouement and throughout deeply enquiring, Lamming has written one of the half dozen most important Caribbean novels of all time. In its tension between tragedy and hope, its poetry and multiple layerings, Lamming's novel invites the reader to envision both the possibilities of radical change and the difficulty of achieving it.
George Lamming was born in Barbados in 1927. He is the author of several of the most important Caribbean novels of all time.
With an introduction by Jeremy Poynting