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The Coming of Lights

Written by Reynold Bassant for Trinidad Guardian on no date provided

THE provenance of this first novel for younger readers is the sugar belt of Central Trinidad - Esperanza to be exact. The author, V.R. Gosine, has lived a considerable part of his life in this confine and knows every blade of grass, every drop of sweat, the bitterness of growing up in a colonial past and struggling to rise out of the morass of poverty and depression. But for all this, Gosine does not use this experience nor carries this burden of the plantation on his back, or blame history for the predicament of the East Indians rooted in the sugar. Rather, he is sworn to self-upliftment. Gosine weaves a most affectionate story of youth rising above economic and social deprivation to an inspiring and self-assuring position to succeed.

From a literary standpoint, the novel provides illumination on the theme of self-awareness and hope. Taken as a publishing venture, it is a foreboding of better things to come from the Caribbean.
When Balwant’s parents are killed in a sugar cane related accident in which he himself loses a leg, he is forced to stay with his aunt and uncle in the cocoa settlement of Ferozbad. Here, his weak, rum-drinking and spineless uncle, Dhiraj, is unable to stave off the blows and torment of a dominating and money-hungry Aunt Paglee. Balwant finds support in this seething maelstrom from his cousin Savitri, and together they fight the odds and learn to conquer loss and deprivation. Death is the purveyor, as when Balwant’s parents dies and when Paglee succumbs to an operation, and it is this which gives rise to the novel’s crisis of self.

The author uses the two settings, Ferozbad and Esperanza, as natural backdrops for a linear narrative that is tightly controlled, coherent and climactic. Gosine gives vivid, authentic evocation of the sugar and cocoa landscapes and the unflinching experiences of the people - most compellingly, the East Indians. And all this is presented not with a post-colonial angst, but with detachment. 
The shifts of the third person perspective in the fluid narrative strategy which the author employs, allow the reader access to the thoughts and feelings of the characters’ contrasted feelings, thereby enhancing the reader’s perspective on the reality. The characters are depicted with conviction and compassion, and speak with a cadence that is befitting the natural speech patterns. Dhiraj, who is sometimes no more than a shadow as long as Paglee is around, becomes a man of substance in the end. He triumphs over alcohol and his weakness, as does Balwant over his misfortunes of a lost leg, legacy and money.

The liberation which comes is that of a trust in the potential of the human spirit to rise above the misfortunes of life to the challenge of opportunity. And these are not laid out on a platter, but are envisioned as goals as Balwant begins life afresh on his return to Esperanza. A well wrought first novel that breaks new ground for all aspiring writers.

This is a review of The Coming of Lights

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