Reviews > Published on April 3rd, 2014

Bookshots: 'Mr. Loverman' by Bernadine Evaristo

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


Mr. Loverman

Who wrote it:

Evaristo paints even the lesser characters with a brush of great compassion, and it’s the development of these diverse personalities that stands out the most.

London-based writer Bernadine Evaristo, author of Blonde Roots and Lara.

Plot in a Box:

Fed up with his wife of 50 years, Barrington plans to finally reveal that he’s in love with his best friend, Morris.

Invent a new title for this book:

The Art of Moving On

Read this if you like:

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison or White Teeth by Zadie Smith

Meet the book's lead:

Barrington Walker; a sharp-dressing, Shakespeare-loving West Indian man who moved to London several decades ago.

Said lead would be portrayed in a movie by:

Is there a more flamboyant version of Morgan Freeman out there somewhere?

Setting: Would you want to live there?

Most of the novel takes place in modern London, but the glimpses of remote Caribbean islands sound far more inviting. 

What was your favorite sentence?

This is what I truly believe happened to Asseleitha. Someone sliced off the top of her head, scooped out her brains, put them in a blender, and turned on the switch. Once it was all mash-up, they poured the mixture back in through her scalp and stitched it all up.

The Verdict:

Mr. Loverman tells the story of Barrington, a seventy-four-year-old Caribbean man who is preparing himself to finally come out of the closet to his wife and adult children.

First, the good news: it’s refreshing to read a voice that speaks from experience. Evaristo becomes Barrington on the page quite convincingly. One of the perks of having an older protagonist is that he has a wealth of past years to draw on, and Mr. Loverman uses this to maximum effectiveness. Barrington is the kind of character that is naturally likeable; from his love of Shakespeare down to the tips of his boots, he oozes charm and charisma. Loverman is undoubtedly a story about interesting people in a more mundane place.

Less charming was the incessant arguing throughout the book. The relatively gentle love story suffers somewhat from all the venom spat between characters during long stretches of the earlier chapters.

Although the conflict is central to Barrington’s decision to come out, it is less than fun to read. The tiffs between the main character and his wife, Carmel, are the kind of squabbles one might hear on the street and hurry past to avoid. They’re private, messy, and downright unpleasant. Fifty years of repressed marital bickering isn't any more alluring than it sounds.

It is also worth mentioning that Mr. Loverman is written in a constant stream of dialect that reflects Barrington’s Caribbean roots. This may not detract from the storytelling, but such an approach can influence the level of enjoyment in a book. Some readers will appreciate the authenticity, while others will find it distracting. Here’s an example, during which Barrington acknowledges his own manner of speaking:

And so what if me and my people choose to mash up the h-english linguish whenever we feel like it, drop our prepositions with our panties, piss in the pot of correct syntax and spelling, and mangle at random?

If that bothered you, this might be one to skip.

The most interesting parts by far are when Evaristo breaks away from the embittered family dynamic to develop the relationship between Morris and Barrington. In general, Evaristo paints even the lesser characters with a brush of great compassion, and it’s the development of these diverse personalities that stands out the most about Mr. Loverman.

About the author

Leah Dearborn is a Boston-based writer with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in international relations from UMass Boston. She started writing for LitReactor in 2013 while paying her way through journalism school and hopping between bookstore jobs (R.I.P. Borders). In the years since, she’s written articles about everything from colonial poisoning plots to city council plans for using owls as pest control. If it’s a little strange, she’s probably interested.

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