This is a moving story of a family’s beginnings, growth and, in the context both of time and Trinidadian society, its inevitable dispersal. Savi Naipaul Akal’s memoir pays tribute to remarkable parents, so different but equal in importance to their large family. Her father’s life is one of heroic self-invention, from virtual orphan in a dirt-poor rural Indian family, one generation away from indentured migration, who through self-education became Seepersad Naipaul, a remarkable journalist and pioneering documenter of Indian Trinidadian life. Her mother, Droapatie, displayed remarkable diplomatic skills in sustaining a relationship with the large and inward-looking Capildeo clan of which she was the seventh daughter, whilst loyally supporting her husband’s insistence on independence and engagement with Trinidadian life. It was Droapatie, after Seepersad’s tragically early death, who held the family together, so that all seven children achieved university education.
It is an account of family loyalty, sacrifice, and sometimes tensions; pride in the writing achievements of her brothers Vidia and Shiva, and sorrow over estrangements and Shiva’s premature death. Through this focus, the memoir also gives a sharply observed picture of cultural change in Trinidad from colony to independent nation, of being Indian in a Creole society, of the role of education, and her parents’ encouragement of herself and her sisters to make independent lives for themselves. The memoir gives an acute analysis of the pressures that led many of the family to emigrate, but also of the good lives made by Savi and her husband that led them to “put down their bucket” and stay.
Above all, this memoir offers the pleasure of writing which is elegant and lucid, with a distinctively personal voice. The book is further enhanced by the generous quantity of family photographs that say so much about both people and the times they lived through.