Merle Hodge’s rare achievement is to create a dynamic portrait of the life of an unquestionably good woman: Gwynneth Cuffie, teacher, lover of children and music, and pillar of her community. Though devastated by tragedy in her politically militant youth, Gwynneth never gives up the struggle against colonialism on the Caribbean island of Cayeri. Her triumph is to find a way between the aspirations of her wounded father, whom colonial education has taught racial self-hatred, and the world of her Mumma’s Spiritual Baptist community where, though the church is banned, Africa remains a real, enlivening presence. It is from the rhythms of Africa that the local youth, whom Teacher Gwynnie supports, develop the iron bands that grow into the national culture of steelband. If the class and racial tensions within the Cuffie family continue through the generations, Merle Hodge offers another vision of family that has little to do with biology, and everything to do with love. This is the family that gathers on the Cuffies’ gallery: the two men with whom the sisters have deep friendships, but from whom they maintain their independence; their neighbours – and Sonny, the child of Mumma’s carer who has left him in the sisters’ capable hands. It is Sonny, the pinnacle of Gwynneth’s life work, who promises to hold the future to account. This richly womanist novel shows the constant interpenetration of past, present and future. Its subject is life – tragic and comic – but moved onward by people who believe that through struggle better must come. It has much to say, by implication, about the present.
One Day, One Day, Congotay
'A novel, like George Elliot’s Middlemarch that celebrates the small, hidden lives that make the world a better place. Like any richly documented historical novel, it has much to say, by implication, about the present'.
Trinidad and Tobago
27 Jan 2022