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Web of Secrets

Written by Chris Searle for Morning Star on no date provided

Many whispers and murmurs - those of Guyana and its people - come to the listening ears of Margaret, the eavesdropping protagonist of Denise Harris’s first published novel Web of Secrets. By the end of the novel, the main character leaves her homeland for the US, but her childhood mission has been to defeat the secrecy of her family, to discover truth and to cause her mother, grandmother, aunts and other relatives to break through their individual life cells and share their beings with each other.

Harris is a writer with a poetic flow of language that is truly distinctive and full of potent meaning.
As Margaret listens under tables, behind doors and in all the concealed places of the large colonial house that her grandmother sees cracking and disintegrating around her, she becomes the only cohesive force of a family decaying into fragments, each part severing its connections with any other.
It is the Guyanese era of the ‘60s. Anti-communist tales of terror, sudden fearful migrations and the transition following the end of British colonialism form the external anxieties for a family locked into complexes of race and elitism. The interior shadows the exterior as illness, violence and insanity grip the family, whose house becomes - like the colony itself - a prison of consciousness and 'unhappy cage' of terrifying self-doubt and distrust in others.

Yet the voice of reason and prophecy breaks out from the surface insanity of Margaret’s grandmother. 'We inhabit a strange web of fictions replete with family histories rooted in violence… rage… incest… sorrow - betrayals,' she confesses. But, as Margaret has learned, and the engrossed reader too through Harris’s startling and mesmeric novel with its promise of redemption, both personally and socially, 'We have something within us that can change the pain and violence and suffering into something rich and glorious.'

This is a review of Web of Secrets

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