Special to National Post – February 14, 2014
Growing up in, Bridgetown, Barbados, where he was born in 1954, Cecil Foster much preferred cricket to reading. Nevertheless, once a week his teachers marched him to the library where he and his classmates regularly looked for the skinniest volume they could find. That is how he came upon Amongst Thistles and Thorns, Austin Clarke’s autobiographical novel about coming of age in Barbados.
Foster told me this tale for an interview forMaclean’s heralding the publication of A Place Called Heaven: The Meaning of Being Black in Canada in 1996. I remember going to his house in Thornhill where I set up my tape recorder in the living room. His three sons were playing in the background. His soon-to-be-ex-wife was there, too. She looked singularly unimpressed by the presence of one more reporter to celebrate the burgeoning literary career that was driving them to the poorhouse.
I enjoyed being in his presence. He had a sincere regard for the experiences of black women that I found extremely comforting. And also, he was a delightful tall tale teller. I mean that literally. When he sat on the couch and propped his feet up on a chair, his legs went on forever. That day, we talked about the childhood experience that has shaped his life and his art: His parent’s emigration to England to make a better life. They left Foster and his brothers in the care of his grandmother when he was two years old. He waited for them to send for him, but they never ever did.
He reworks these facts yet again in Independence, his glorious new novel, by far his best effort to date, outshining even his memorable debut, 1991’s No Man in the House. It opens in the village of Silver Hill in Barbados in the early days of the newly independent nation. There, 14-year-old next-door neighbours Christopher Lucas and Stephanie King are being raised by their deeply religious grandmothers while they wait hopefully to join their mothers in North America. But they have not heard from their mothers for years…
Read the rest of the review - http://arts.nationalpost.com/2014/02/14/independence-by-cecil-foster-review/