The last 130 pages or so redeemed this book for me. At that point I was caught up with and concerned for the characters, whereas, for most of the book, I felt pretty alienated to be honest. But the end is very emotional and sad and hopeful, too. Still, there are some long slogs punctuating this story. And there are places where the author surprised me with an image or exit so weak that I wondered how she could not have seen and amended it herself.
For example, at the end of the chapter in which the Jamaican immigrant Hortense meets Queenie, and there's this back-and-forth of personalities and cultures and misunderstandings, the last words of the segment are Hortense asking Queenie how to make chips (the food). It's just so pat, so obviously construed to show that Hortense has something to learn and will have to bend, etc.
Then the scene with Bernard and Maxi in India with its so obvious (latent) homosexual imagery when Bernard has forgotten his blanket in the desert and has to share with Maxi, their bodies “wrapped as one, sticking together where bare flesh pressed.” Then they hear something nearby and their “guns were quickly erect, poking through the gap in the cloth pointing different ways.” What a groaner.
Also the descriptions of sex between Queenie and her lover, and Queenie’s description of how she was like another person when he looked at her, “this woman … (who) could have lit up London.”
I had some other problems, too. Like how could Hortense not have known that blacks faced discrimination in England in the 1940s? Hello? And why wasn’t the character of Bernard more interesting? The author certainly tried to make him so, but it didn’t work.
Anyway, not to be so negative. I am glad I didn’t give up reading because in the scheme of things the book wasn’t bad, and the end definitely paid off. I am sure this would hold much more reward for a reader with a vested interest in this time and these cultures.