The Drowned Forest

Angela Barry


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Peepal Tree Press Ltd
9 June 2022
ISBN: 9781845235376

From the publisher

In this novel, told in the voices of the five main characters, Angela Barry brings to vivid life the conflicts and possibilities of change in Bermuda as it emerges from the old colonial order of white privilege.

In the discovery of a fossilized tree stump many fathoms deep off the coast of Bermuda, Angela Barry finds a potent metaphor of long-term climate change against which to measure the alarms, resentments and hopes of future possibilities expressed by her characters as they respond to Bermuda’s emergence from colonial status. Modernity brings challenges to the old racial, cultural and religious hierarchies that have dominated the island. Told through a group of characters brought together in shared responsibility for Genesis, a young Black adolescent girl on the verge of incarceration as a juvenile offender, and by Genesis herself, Barry explores a clashing of subcultures, each with the sense that their Bermuda is the one that possesses the island’s virtues. There is Nina, from the respectable Black middle-class, with her own prickly uncertainties and moral hang-ups; Lizzie, fighting for her own space in a Portuguese family railing against changing times, Tess, fighting a battle with guilt over her white privilege and her reluctance to lose its benefits; and Hugh, a young Welshman who has come to the island to find himself, who takes on the task of tutoring Genesis and in the process breaches the trust of sexual restraint between teacher and student. Angela Barry weaves a rich and absorbing narrative in which these different perspectives – insider / outsider, youth / age, Black / white – are each given sympathetic space and a convincing sense of growth through the span of the novel. Above all, in the character of Genesis, Barry creates a dynamic and winning portrayal of the energies, hopes, conscience and vulnerabilities of youth. Beyond the human world with all its divisions, there is Bermuda, for whose beauties and sometimes urban ugliness Barry has a vividly descriptive eye.