As Stephenson, who almost accidentally finds himself as a mature student at university, comes closer to his girl-friend Thea, with her easy talk of her family, he has to acknowledge that he has never known his father, not lived with his mother, and cannot remember what his grandparents looked like. He knows, too, that his failure to come clean about a disreputable episode in his past threatens their relationship. The Lights on the Hill, the first of two interdependent short novels in Shades of Grey, is a moving and inward portrait of a man trying in his halting way to construct his own story.
In Another Place, Another Time St Omer explores the circumstances in which a scholarship boy makes the decision to separate himself from his family and friends and conclude that “He had no cause nor any country now other than himself.” As in all St Omer’s fiction, there is a sharp focus on the inequalities of gender, and a compassionate but unwavering judgement of the failings of his male characters.
When Shades of Grey was first published in 1968, The Listener called it “one of the most genuinely daring and accomplished works of fiction… for a very long time”, whilst Kenneth Ramchand concluded that St Omer’s “delicacy, control and economy must surely place him in the first rank of twentieth-century novelists.”
Garth St Omer was born in Castries, St Lucia in 1931. During the earlier 1950s St Omer was part of a group of artists in St Lucia including Roderick and Derek Walcott and the artist Dunstan St Omer.