Lauren Francis-Sharma | Trinidad and Tobago
Historical fiction will always have a soft spot for me in terms of genres. Over the years I’ve become incredibly picky about which historical novels I read, because I feel many don’t particularly interest me. However, in 2020 Book of the Little Axe came on my radar and I was completely ecstatic about reading Lauren Francis-Sharma’s narrative that focused on 16th century Trinidad! I have an incredible amount of respect for the research, character development, and the descriptive detail that Sharma produces here.
Set between 1794 and 1830, it’s a sweeping epic story of the lives of a family in Trinidad during the time of Spanish colonization, a boy and his mother living with a Native American tribe, and a man who links them all together. The story of all of their lives unfolds when Rosa and Victor are forced to leave the tribe after death of a young girl and a betrayal by a trusted elder. The truth of who he really is and why he’s struggled to achieve the milestones of his peers in the tribe, can only be revealed on this journey with his mother.
Francis-Sharma has done an outstanding job putting you in Trinidad experiencing the racial and political dynamic that has such a heavy influence on the family, who are caught between salvaging their dignity and livelihood, managing their internal family conflicts, and outlasting the political forces that is strangling the local economy.
Simultaneously, the descriptions of life within the tribe: the hunts, the nightly feasts, the rights of passage, the respect for animals and nature just really makes this book so much more wholesome. But this is a book that requires patience to let the story unfold. The pace is a slow build, but you learn about various characters’ weaknesses and insecurities that dictate their actions.
At times this book can be a slow burn and it will take some patience to understand the connections on the American West portion of the story, because the purpose of some characters isn’t immediately evident. I encourage you to have patience during these times, because I had to as well. Overall, Sharma’s writing is well-researched, sophisticated, and characters with circumstances that keep you invested and who are realistic enough that you feel along with them.
For more insight on Book of the Little Axe, read my conversation with Lauren Francis-Sharma.
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