Genre: Fiction, Romance
It is 1912,Winnie is about to marry the sweet and kind George Quint, the love of her life. Used to privilege, comfort and security that is born of wealth and used to the good life she had on her father’s sugar plantation, Winnie has gone against her family, against what is accepted by society in fact; because George is a black postman from the wrong side of town in what the white folk think of as slums. This is British Guiana, South America and inter racial marriage is taboo.
Winnie may be living a meagre existence practically in poverty and fighting to be accepted into her husband's community but she is not alone in her struggles. Her sister Johanna is eaten up with jealousy. Winnie has a loving husband and a beautiful family. To make matters worse, Winnie is quite blatantly her mother's favourite child too. Johanna has social status, she runs her family’s sugar plantation but this is no substitute for the blessings she feels Winnie has been unfairly gifted.
So when Winnie’s son falls ill and to Venezuela she goes on a desperate quest for a cure, Johanna finds herself increasingly drawn to George. Loyal and loving George is blind to her as anything other than the judgemental sister of his bride, he adores Winnie. Johanna, stung by perceived rejection by someone so beneath her and compounded by the hopelessness of her own marriage, Johanna is out to seek revenge and she has no thought about the ramifications of her selfish and churlish act. Her actions are extreme and calculating and sully all that was pure between Winnie and George.
I have subsequently realised this is the second book featuring these characters so some leeway must be given if I form my opinions of the characters from this initial meeting, but of all the characters I found Yoyo (Johanna) the most interesting if not the most repellant! If Winnie had been previously spoiled by the trappings of wealth and privilege, it is obvious that Yoyo has been utterly rotted by her father's indulgence and descrimatory attitudes and behaviours, where Winnie earns respect and seeks to do better when she makes mistakes, Jojo blames, recriminates and plots.
Sibling rivalry is one thing but the assumed slights here far outweigh the reality of the situation. Johanna may lead an unfulfilled life but this is in part her own fault. I feel little sympathy for her plight.
The book's style is very easy to read, the different voices are distinct and immediately conveyed the characteristics, the true nature of their respective personalities and I fell instantly in love with Winnie and George and from the very start I was rooting for them . The use of the clever plotting device of setting George up as a penitent for some as yet known crime against his true love was an instantaneous way to tie me to their destinies.
The setting is lush, and verdant and an area of the world which intrigued and enthralled me The research around the divide between the Rich "English" and the poorer African and Indian inhabitants actually provided insights that I had not really considered prior to reading the book. The fact that George's cuisine seemed to follow a more Asian route rather than that of the African food I had expected was an eye opener and added infinite facets to the book as a whole.
This is ultimately a story of searching, Winnie Searches for Acceptance, George searches for forgiveness from himself as much as his beloved and Yoyo for respect and ultimately in the end for serenity in her circumstances, no matter how much her situation is her own doing. I never grew to like Yoyo, but I grew to understand her which is testament to the skill of Sharon Maas as a spinner of stories.
This was an utterly enthralling read and now I will have to seek out the origins of Winnie and George's enduring love affair in "The Secret life of Winnie Cox". I think it is safe to say Ms Maas has a new advocate here.