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Maryse Conde -- The Story of the Cannibal Woman (Atria)

By Laura James · April 25th, 2007 · Lit
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  Maryse Conde -- The Story of the Cannibal Woman
Maryse Conde -- The Story of the Cannibal Woman



This novel leaves you foggy. The story begins in Cape Town, South Africa, and a black woman from Guadeloupe, Rosélie, who suddenly finds herself alone. Her longtime lover and 'husband' -- though technically the two never married -- has been shot and killed outside a cigarette shop.

Theories abound. Stephen, Rosélie's murdered lover, is an odd, undefined character. Condé reveals his disposition in pieces, usually within the bounds of Rosélie's memory. Stephen was a white professor with white colleagues and friends who looked at Rosélie in a manner that kept her quiet. Rosélie often drifted toward her paintings -- her ugly children -- to avoid the probing looks. Stephen loved the attention her blackness, her otherness, gave him. He offered ridiculous, racist theories on racism -- blaming victims, turning the tables. But it's never clear whether he is serious or saying these things to evoke a reaction. Rosélie, for her part, remains distant and quiet, so much so that she seems to have let this man fill her head with murky daydreams and laziness. Much happens while the police search for Stephen's killer -- a woman much stronger than our protagonist awaits trial for a crime at once heinous and justified. Rosélie finds other lovers, some of whom could take her away from the hostile environment of South Africa (take it from the novel's opening sentence: "Cape Town always slept in the same position, curled up in the muzzle of a gun"). She remembers her obese mother and her hopeless father. She watches as violence and disease ravage her friends. More importantly, though, Rosélie wades her way though the soupy life she has lived to find the truth about her love, her city and her own nature. (Laura James) Grade: B

 
 
 
 

 

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