I have had a horrible cold this week, and finally admitted defeat yesterday and called in sick to work. This meant a day in bed feeling grotty – but the one major advantage of my day convalescing is that I managed to finish the fantastic Mr Loverman by Bernardine Evaristo.
Barrington Walker is a 74-year-old Antiguan who has lived in Hackney, East London, for the past 50 years. He is married to long-suffering Carmel and has two grown-up daughters. A flamboyant dresser, he enjoys the local nightlife with his best friend Morris. Barrington – or Barry for short – narrates most of the novel, and while he is very open with us, the reader, he hasn’t been so open to his wife and the others that are close to him, as he leads a double life, having been in a secret relationship with Morris for 60 years.
Barry’s narrative is warm and funny, and he regales us with his adventures in his own very unique tone of voice – a bit of Shakespeare here, a touch of patois there… We find out a lot about his character from what he tells us, but we also get his rather one-sided opinions of others in the story, particularly Carmel, who he is none too complimentary about.
But then in between Barry’s narrative are shorter passages from Carmel herself, starting from 1960 and working forwards ten years at a time to bring us up-to-date in 2010. These sections of the book are written as a kind of stream-of-consciousness, with very short paragraphs and little punctuation. At first this grated on me as the style seemed unnecessary and I just wanted to get back to Barry’s witty narrative. But actually I soon realised that Carmel’s sections threw light on the whole story, telling us more about why she is as she is, and giving us an insight into her own life – which isn’t without its own secrets. The different style of writing separated these sections nicely from Barry’s, and by the end I enjoyed Carmel’s chapters as much as Barry’s, but for different reasons.
I really loved this novel. It was warm and moving, and full of witty one-liners. Barrington is such a unique character, who is loveable despite his faults. I found myself rooting for him, and you feel like you’ve really got know him over the course of the book.
I’m going to give this book the full 10 out of 10 as I can’t really fault it, and I would definitely read it again.
My rating: 10 out of 10