Bernardine Evaristo’s Mr. Loverman is the perfect book for fans of the series Grace and Frankie. It’s the story of an older gay couple in love, a rollercoaster ride of emotions between secrecy and coming out, lightened up by extremely funny characters.
Evaristo shared with us in an interview that almost all her books have a “global element”. Soul Tourists is a pan-European book. Girl, Woman, Other is set in London and the US and features Black women and non-binary people of various diasporas. Mr. Loverman moves between London and the Caribbean. Evaristo’s work is characterised by wit, inventiveness and a love of turning things around, and Mr. Loverman is no exception.
We meet Barrington Jedidiah Walker Esq, a 74-year-old dandy and autodidact who is sometimes not entirely honest with himself. He is really in love – though unfortunately not with Carmel, the woman he has been married to for 50 years – but with his lover Morris Courtney de la Roux. The two began dating secretly in their youth, when they were still living in Antigua, and their love affair continued throughout their adult lives in London.
So Barrington – or Barry – leads a double life. In Antigua, homosexuality was forbidden and even in Britain it isn’t necessarily easy for older gay Black men. He therefore tries to convince Carmel, who nevertheless thinks he will cheat on her with other women if he stays out late, of his dwindling desire for sex. Carmel and her church friends can’t stop complaining about Barry. Conflict runs through Barry’s marriage and comes to a head.
While Barry sees his wife as a naïve, narrow-minded complainer, the passages told from her perspective allow readers to get to know her from a different side. In poetic language, Evaristo now shows Carmel as a beauty, a daydreamer with erotic desires. Carmel is striving for self-actualization, but has to experience her marriage slowly going down the drain.
Typically for Evaristo, the characters in Mr. Loverman are not trapped in victim positions. Some kind of self-empowerment seems possible for everyone, even if it sometimes means having to hurt others or go through painful experiences. But the tone of the story always remains playful and humorous.
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