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Written by Pamela Beshoff for Weekly Gleaner on no date provided

Lakshmi Persaud’s new book Sastra, like her first novel, Butterfly in the Wind, is set in colonial Trinidad. It is a context with which the readers of Caribbean literature are already familiar, from Vidia Naipaul’s House For Mr Biswas, Ralph Boissiere’s Rum And Coca Cola, Alfred Mendes’ Pitch Lake and C.L.R. James’ Minty Alley. Comparisons are invidious but inevitable and in this case do the author no harm. True, there is not the cutting, often cruel observation of Naipaul, nor the political message of de Boissiere and James, nor the dark drama of Mendes but there is a quality to this writing which makes it perfectly capable of bearing comparison with the best of the existing Trinidadian literary canon.

Butterfly in the Wind was a beautifully written record of a child’s observations, both actual and intellectual, yet betraying a sharp witness of politics and society. Sastra is a very different book, the unashamed romance of a young Hindu girl bound by the conventions of her religion and family, struggling to be free to go on her own rather than take the preordained path of marriage to the handsome son of family friends. There is no violence, nor hatred, nor are there horrors of any kind in this book. At times this might have seemed a weakness, the story verging on the sentimental rather than the reality of every day life. But there is always a hard-core or pragmatism which prevents this happening.

Lakshmi Persaud tells the story of the women who have their own feelings about romance, who cook - there are wonderful evocations of the use of the spices and the preparation of various dishes - who bring up the children, guide the family and often work in the shop. The views at this particular group are seldom, if ever, given voice. In both these books they can be heard, not with the blare of trumpets, but with a subtlety that increases their impact. Lakshmi Persaud has given us the key with which to unlock a window upon Trinidadian-Indian life which has hitherto remained closed.
It is a fascinating discovery.

This is a review of Sastra

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