Feature

Novel of the week: See Now Then by Jamaica Kincaid

Not all is well inside the pretty house that Jamaica Kincaid’s narrator, Mrs. Sweet, so lovingly describes.

(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $24)

Jamaica Kincaid’s first novel in a decade opens on a perfect Vermont idyll, said Malcolm Forbes in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Yet not all is well inside the pretty house that the narrator, Mrs. Sweet, so lovingly describes. By page 4, she has turned to musing about why her husband and the father of her two children wishes her dead. And though a reader could easily tire of stream-of-consciousness effusions about a marriage gone awry, Kincaid “ensures that each outpouring is arresting and laced with either heartfelt emotion or the blackest of comedy.” Still, the book can feel too much like “the nastiness of a real marriage,” said Héctor Tobar in the Los Angeles Times. While Kincaid has denied that See Now Then relates the backstory behind her own recent divorce, it contains so many parallels with her life that reading it can feel “uncomfortably voyeuristic.” The book is undoubtedly “a work of art”—full of exquisite language and allegory. “One can only hope, for the sake of a real-life family, that art is mostly what it is.”

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