Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Book 126, Bahamas: "Triptych" by Wendy Coakley-Thompson

Didja know that one of Hemingway's posthumous novels (he was working on it when he died) is partially set on the island of Bimini in the Bahamas? Alas, Islands in the Stream is only available in the National Library's reference section, so I ended up going with full-on chick lit.

Wendy Coakley-Thompson was born in the US and works in the US, but she's ancestrally Bahamian, and spent a bunch of her childhood there. In her foreword, she talks about reading Robert Wilder's The Wind from the Carolinas, and yearning to read more fiction set in the Bahamas. "Little did I know that I would have to write that book myself!" she giggles.

And let's be frank - this isn't great literature. It's escapist writing. All the characters are Mary Sues: the Cuban hospital financier Jonathan Cruz, his gorgeous Bahamian surgeon wife Alexandra and his Afro-Cuban-Canadian psychology professor cousin Timothy Lamb. All wealthy professionals in their 40s or early 50s; Tyler-Perry-esque people of colour. All religious and (trying hard to be) virtuous. All living the life in the tropical paradise of Nassau. All of them ridiculously good looking, more so in middle age than in their youth, with crazy sex drives to boot.

So no, I'm not getting much of an insiders' view of the Bahamas (although people do seem to be pretty well off there: it's the second-highest Caribbean nation on the Human Development Index, after Barbados). A few mentions of Conchy Joes and fish stew and seagrapes and androsia and Camp Discovery. Not great prose, either - very transparent, needy, black and white. 

Was actually tempted to stop reading and head over the library's reference section, but then the story started to grip me a little. It's a sappy business, about Jonathan getting a brain tumour, and not being able to get it up anymore, and then letting his cousin sexually satisfy his long-suffering wife because he can't anymore. It's all described with lush urgency, and Tim actually deflowered Ally when they were in their teens, and they're longing for each other anyway, and there's a huge pot-fueled threesome (one realises that Coakley-Thompson chose "triptych" because it was a classier way of saying "threesome"), and then people start dying and crying, et cetera, and then Tim and Ally shack up in the end. That kind of story, but with the characters feeling bad about all the moves they make, beating themselves up religiously, but doing them anyway, because hey, they're red-blooded Caribbean middle-aged people, and they gotta bone.

Chick lit, like I said. But there's nothing wrong with a book like this existing. My only big problems are with the fact that Ally, a fully qualified surgeon, believes in homeopathy, and that there's no real justification for Jonathan never straight up *telling* her that he's fine with her bonking on the side. Oh, and maybe there's a little too much drama in the characters' background (rape! kidnapping! baby murder! a perfect wife killed by a car crash!).

And that's it for the Caribbean! Unless anyone can recommend a good book about Bonaire, Sint Eustatius or Saba. Now we're on to the rich developed world: North America... and, not long afterwards, Europe!

View Around the World in 80 Books!!! in a larger map

Representative quote: Before her mind could catch up, Tim leaned in and brushed his lips against hers. Every synapse in her body cried out for him. He kissed her repeatedly, and her pussy flooded. She felt her blouse opening and falling away. She felt her bra hooks opening, saw Jonathan toss her bra across the room out of the corner of her eye. Tim cupped her breasts, and she cried out. From behind hr, she felt Jonathan's hands pulling down her Capris and panties. She felt a draft of air across her bare buttocks. Instinctively, she raised her ass in the air. In her fog, she felt the tip of Jonathan's tongue invading her pussy, licking her vibrating clit with just the right pressure to make her lose it. Above her, she realized that Tim was stroking her head, her shoulders, her back, parting her ass cheeks to improve her husband's view. Tim's hands massaged her breasts, gently tweaking her sensitive nipples. The double onslaught was too much for her to handle. The orgasm snuck up on her, surprising her, shocking her raw. She collapsed face down onto the pillows, her breathing ragged into the soft cloth.

Next book: Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, from the USA.


Wendy Coakley-Thompson said...

Hello, there. Imagine my surprise, coming across this piece about my book, "Triptych." And the fact that my book repped the Bahamas on your "Around the World in 80 Books" Tour. Interesting review. I assume that, after all of the purple prose, that you like it...?

Ng Yi-Sheng said...

Below is the e-mail conversation we had...

Hi Wendy,

Yes, I did enjoy your book in the end. I needed time to get used to some of the conventions of the piece.

It's strange how Bahamian writers haven't made a name for themselves internationally, unlike writers from other Caribbean nations. Do you know of any authors you'd recommend? Also, would you mind if I shared this correspondence on my blog?



Hello again, Yi-Sheng.

To answer your question, I can’t explain why writers from other parts of the Caribbean predominate. It’s a very provocative question—one that I’ll ruminate on for quite some time.

Sure, you can share our e-mails on your blog. I merely e-mailed you the comment that I’d already left on the blog. But I’d have no issue with what you propose. I remain pleased that my work is being read and, in your case, eventually enjoyed. LOL

I wish you all the best with your literary trip around the world.

Warmest regards,