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Photograph - Eugene McConville

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Light Falling on Bamboo

Trinidad, 1848. Michel Jean Cazabon returns home to be at his beloved mother's deathbed. Life on the island seems very different after the freedoms of post-Revolutionary Paris, where his paintings have hung in the Louvre. Despite the Emancipation Act, his childhood home is still in the grip of colonial power, its people riven by the legacy of slavery. Michel Jean finds himself caught between the powerful and the dispossessed. As an artist, he enjoys the governor's patronage, painting for him the island's vistas and its women; as a Trinidadian he shares easy wisdom and nips of rum with the local boat-builders. But domestic tensions and haunting reminders of the past threaten his equanimity. His fiery half-sister, Josie - the daughter of a slave - still provokes in him a youthful passion; his flirtatious muse, Augusta, tempts him as he paints her 'for posterity'. Meanwhile, letters from his white, French wife and children remind him of their imminent arrival on the island. Caught in the sweep of history and his own intimate dramas, Michel Jean paints the figures in the landscape, the dappled light as it falls through the bamboo grove.

 

Awards

“A love-letter to Trinidad, but one which exposes the pain as well as the beauty of this “small corner of the world.” Betty Wilson. Judge of Prix des Ecrivains de la Caraïbe from the Congrès des Ecrivains de la Caraïbe, Guadeloupe, 2013. Full Review

Longlisted for the International Impac Dublin literary Award, 2014. Full Review

Honourable Mention from Casa de las Americas Prize, Cuba, 2014. Full Review

Special Mention from the Grand Prix Littéraire de l’Association des Ecrivains de la Caraïbe from the Congrès des Ecrivains de la Caraïbe, Guadeloupe, 2013. Full Review

Shortlisted for the BOCAS Fiction Category, 2013. Longlisted for the overall BOCAS Prize, 2013. Full Review

 

Reviews

"In this intimate, compassionate portrait of 19th century Trinidad, Lawrence Scott presents a gripping tale of a world burdened by its secrets and exposed by its art."Earl Lovelace, Winner of The Commonwealth Writers Prize 1997 for Salt and author of Is Just a Movie.

“But for me, the novel is particularly appealing in two fronts: first, there is Scott’s sensitivity in treating with the racial and social tensions that, even today, are the subtext of so many of our public exchanges; and second, and most importantly, there is that strength of imaginative energy that informs this fictional re-creation of the life and work of the country’s most-renowned landscape artist, Michel Jean Cazabon.” Dr Marjorie Thorpe, Launch at NALIS November 2012 Full Review

" As little is known about Cazabon's life, Scott has considerable freedom to flesh out and explore the moral implications of his art and relationships. The novel is written in a magnificent prose style that matches the art it describes." Bernadine Evaristo - The Guardian Full Review

"Lawrence Scott deftly paints a portrait of a man deeply split on every level...While in theory Light Falling on Bamboo is the fictionalised account of one man's life, Scott captures so much more. This novel shows us the dark "truth of an age" in a small corner of the New World, once dependent on slave labour. Scott doesn't judge. He shows us a world full of prejudice and social injustice, and we feel uncomfortable throughout. And also, like Cazabon, we fall in love numerous times with this complicated world. Scott, born on a sugar estate, knows this society intimately and paints this world with skill and grace.' Monique Roffey, Author of The White Woman on the Green Bicycle and Archipelago - The Independent Full Review

" Cazabon himself is quietly subversive: though his landscapes were commissioned by white landowners, he included dignified representations of those working the land, and in so doing teased out "the honest truth" of post- emancipation Trinidad. Scott does likewise in this beautifully subtle and sensitive novel, which conjures a convincing fictional portrait of a 19t-century Trinidadian painter. David Evans - Financial Times Full Review

"This mighty book is saturated in the colour and shadow of paintings and the racial and class issues revealed within and beyond them. An eye opening and impressively composed read. " Paul Simon - Morning Star Full Review

" Scott's historical novel transports us to post-emancipation Trinidad, a country shaking off its violent legacy and simmering with local passions."Books Round-Up - Vogue Full Review

“ Scott’s latest novel is nothing less than remarkable, blending in ambitious detail the real life of one of Trinidad’s founding artistic figures, with a fictional account of what his most personal moments might have resembled….The reader leans towards believing, rather than discrediting, the artistic licences that Scott himself has taken - what emerges is the study of a complex, haunted figure.” Shivanee Ramlochan Trinidad Sunday Guardian Full Review

Scott reveals Cazabon’s life with vivid colours and rich imagery layered with moral ambiguity. He understands the story he’s telling here, about the contradictions in Cazabon’s heart—between women, duties, and cultures. Recommended. Kristen Hannum - Historical Novel Society Full Review

Cazabon managed to imbue his works with a subversive subtlety. Lawrence Scott’s novel explores the duality of both Cazabon's art and personal life. Randy Baker - National Caribbean Examiner Full Review

Novel of grace, beauty, love and, yes, light… What Scott in effect paints in prose about the life and times of Michel Jean Cazabon is that of an original Trini-to-the-bone. It's an enthralling portrait of the man, the people and the island he loves. Raoul Pantin - Trinidad Sunday Express Full Review

Lawrence Scott has written an important historical romance, The loving attention that Scott devotes to detail, sensitivity to light and colour, and his determination to capture the many tones of his landscape and people give his romance a translucence and luminosity that is wondrous to behold. We owe him a debt of gratitude for offering us this way of seeing during this period in our history. Prof. Selwyn Cudjoe - Trinidad Sunday Express Full Review

In Light Falling On Bamboo, Lawrence Scott crafts a multi-textured work that explores not only the enduring physical servitude of the recently released slaves in 1850s Trinidad but the efforts of the dominant landowning class to marginalise them in the works of art they commission. Paul Simon – Morning Star Full Review

Our own Lawrence Scott has written an historical novel. It's called Light Falling on Bamboo and it's about Michel-Jean Cazabon, Trinidad's famous 19th century painter….we know little about his inner life, what drove his intense creativity, the persons important to him. These are the "gaps'' that Scott seeks to fill in his novel. As we might expect from an award-winning novelist, Light Falling on Bamboo is beautifully written. Prof. Bridget Brereton - Trinidad Express Full Review

Even the most unflinching of Cazabon purists cannot stint Scott for the careful world-making that Light Falling on Bamboo purposes, melding history and fiction near-seamlessly to honour the imagined and real life of a talented son of the Trinbagonian soil. Shivanee Ramlochan - Carib Beat Full Review

The novel is not only historical but also visual. Scott’s prose is as rich as the physical and political landscapes of nineteenth-century Trinidad and as artful as Cazabon’s painting; the descriptions of the artist’s source material—mountains and pastures and people—scarcely require the reader to seek out the paintings…. a masterful novel. Kaneesha Parsard, Small Axe Full Review

“Accomplished ... Scott's book is more than just a fanciful biography, with the author exploring a wide range of issues, from race to sexual equality. Throughout it all the writing is magnificent.” Fachtna Kelly - Sunday Business Post

NGC Bocas Lit Fest - Link

Tindal Street Press - Link

Trinidad Express - Link

Cazabon - New Discovery - Link

 

Relevant research links to Michel Jean Cazabon

Art Society of Trinidad and Tobago

Caribbean History Archives

Citizens for Conservation

Belmont House (04/09/12)

Daily Telegraph article on Belmont House

Wasafiri

Beyond illustration | The Trinidad Guardian Newspaper

http://www.vam.ac.uk/b/va-illustration-awards-2014/published/book-cover-illustrations/light-falling-bamboo

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