Thursday, July 31, 2014

Monique Roffey

Is Roffey a TCK or an immigrant, and does it matter?  She was born in Trinidad (father British, mother Mediterranean), went to England for school and stayed.  I would err on the side of immigrant.

Does it matter?  The novel tells a story likely to appeal immensely to anyone.  A middle-aged man escapes his terrible job and recent family trauma to take his young daughter sailing around the Caribbean for months.  Anyone can empathise with, and desire, this kind of escapism.  The sailing and the travel experiences are likely to appeal to anyone who has travelled and anyone who wishes they could travel, perhaps right now.

In in terms of literary tropes and TCL tropes, Archipelago is rife with loss (an infant drowns in a flood, and later a much-loved dog falls overboard and drowns too), and also dislocation (Gavin and his daughter are out-of-place and adrift on the wide ocean).  In these respects, it is like third culture literature.

In other respects, however, it clearly is not.

There no secrecy, guilt, disenfranchisement, sexual dysfunction, abandonment of children or even malaria (each of which is a prominent trope depending on whether the TCA you are reading was an affluent business person's child, dipkid, a brat, or an MK).

Picking up on this week's writing about point of view: here it resides solely with Gavin, and though he reflects more than once on the circumstances of his son's death, it is not at all like the TCAs below who focus almost exaggeratedly on the issue of multiple perspectives.

Also, my sawhorse Time.  If a distinctive feature of TCL is that narrative is organised according to place, not time then Archipelago  doesn't fit.  On line three we are told it is 7pm, and though there are flashbacks, the novel's plot unfolds pretty systematically from that moment.  Throughout, Roffey steers her reader using the clock more than the globe "They set sail for Curacao at dawn.  It is mid-December 2010" (141).  (Contrast this with another ship-board novel, Ondaatje's The Cat's Table, which is TCL.  In this novel place always trumps time as a way of orienting the reader: "And now I was going to England" (114), "She went inland and south" (179), "We slipped into England in the dark" (263)).

Does it matter?  No, not if you are simply looking for an appealing and well-written piece of travel fiction.  Yes, if you are thinking that maybe TCKs who grow up to become authors (TCAs) share literary tropes and styles because of a culture they also share.

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