Apparently free-thinking and ecologically green before its time, Gregory finds much in Berkelhoost to attract him, particularly when his pretty cousin Mabel shows an unmistakeable interest. But there is an authoritarian side to the project that alarms Gregory’s democratic instincts and it is this which makes it impossible to read the novel, first published in 1951, without seeing elements of prophecy – of the fate of the People’s Temple commune at Jonestown in Guyana in 1978.
No such dreadful end awaits the generality of the communards, but in this most inventive of Mittelholzer’s novels there are darker notes beneath the generally comic tone.
Edgar Mittelholzer was born in British Guiana in 1909. He wrote more than twenty novels. He eventually settled in England, where he lived until his death in 1965, a suicide predicted in several of his novels.