Forbidden Reviewed in the US Review of Books

Reviewed by Barbara Deming

“You don’t understand. It’s a question of identity, of knowing who you are and where you come from.”

The nightmare of some African slaves began in 1766 when they arrived on the West Indies island of Saint Helen. Colonized by Jean-Claude Isidore, the Isidore family will rule not only the sugar plantation and island politics, but also the lives of the black population from then until modern times. Christian Joseph, a mulatto, raised by an adoptive mother who was housekeeper for Catholic Father O’Conner, is an acolyte, devoted to the priest and the church. He agrees to go to a rural part of the island to help out with a new school. In Soufriere, he meets Conrad Macarton who reveals a tragic tale, a story Christian wants to believe but dares not. With the help of purebred African resident, April, Christian will discover the mystery of his birth and the path for his future.

Readers who love James Michener’s lengthy prose will savor this novel by Caribbean journalist, Williams. This is not a novel to be rushed. The message from this author shines through: These people stubbornly refused to give up their culture. Racial conflict shapes this fictional island, skin color of Europeans is shown superior, Catholicism is declared the only worthwhile religion, and this author extends his knowledge of this phase of Caribbean history to all. The insightful ending rewards the reader for accepting outstanding narrative at the expense of character and for the blurred timeline of events. Christian Joseph’s future is before him; readers will hope the author follows through with the rest of his story.

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