By: Christine Hale
Reviewed by: Kevin Wilder
Livingston Press, 2009
Basil’s Dream is a suspenseful, absorbing tale juggling multiple themes of love, politics, and race relations. The Bermuda of Christine Hale’s first novel is far from the oversimplified island of postcards and popular lore (though vivid imagery of craggy pink beaches, motor scooters, and Rastafarians are all there). Hale’s descriptions of the British overseas territory are particularly interesting and unique, as they draw attention to the post-9/11 social unrest and political strife the region has faced. Also, there’s enough island background to whet any history-lovers’ appetites.
The story follows several complex characters and situations with careful consideration. As relationships become intertwined, emotional obstacles abound. The resulting prose is both seamless and moving. When Lucy Langston’s husband Darrell, the chief operator of a subsidiary of American company TransGlobal, announces his family will be relocating to Bermuda, Lucy is left with no other alternative. As Darrell remains occupied with matters of business, a divorce seems inevitable. Just as Lucy becomes overwhelmingly bored and neglected, she becomes better acquainted with the black leader of a local political party named Marcus Passjohn. The two provide each other comfort at a time they feel they need it most, leading to a deep and steamy love affair.
In addition to Passjohn helping alleviate Lucy’s anxieties of living on the island, he might be the island’s sole hope to impoverished blacks. Even his countless opposers draw comparisons between him and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., finding that his speeches have enough power to “move them to tears.” He is weary as well, at both the injustices thwarted at his race and the pressures of raising his son Zef alone. When Zef decides to befriend the Langstons' son “as a project,” the teenagers’ rebellious deeds become both dark and threatening.
Hale’s elegant, sincere novel is sure to appeal to many. The fact that she spent much of the late eighties and early nineties living in the secluded locale lends itself favorably to Basil’s Dream. Her next books include another novel and a spiritual memoir, which are each set to take place in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Oct 2009
Kevin Wilder lives in Birmingham and coauthors the serialized young adult blog-novel Some New Trend.