Lloyd Beharry, a Berbician Guyanese, and a Londoner, has published a fictional historical novel about slavery and indentureship experience. Titled, FIELDS ON FIRE, this novel, says the writer, is set against the brutal and inhumane conditions of the sugar cane plantation life. It is not location specific. It centers around the lives of an African and an Indian that really tells the experience of those who labored on the plantations whether in British Guiana or elsewhere. The novel is 259 pages long.
The author was born in Rose Hall town, Guyana and worked for ten years in various sugar estates as a Personnel Manager. He has been living in London for some fifty years and has taught Academic English at the Universities of Cardiff and Essex and currently teaches Academic English and Communication at the University of Wales TSD (London).
According to the writer, what took place during slavery and indentureship in British Guiana is a replica in the entire British West Indies, and even the French and Dutch Caribbean, in the 19th Century and early 20th century, where Africans, Indians and a sprinkling of Irish, Portuguese and Chinese, were brought to labour, often against their will, in putrid conditions, creating wealth for the colonialists.
It is a moving story of how the two men, one of each race, managed to build a life for themselves and their families despite the inhuman conditions of slavery and indenture, where the Plantocracy ensured control by keeping the two races apart.
A synopsis of the novel says it is a story of how two laborers one a slave, and another an indentured laborer, “found happiness against all odds. John, an African, chastised, brutalised, and disabled by a field accident, falls in love with a horse, and Valmiki, a low-caste Indian who, through deceit, becomes a leader of men and marries the beautiful Brahmin, Shanta.None of which would have been possible but for the kindness of two white Planters. It is a story of the occult, violence and rebellion told with situational and ironic humour. Above all, it is about redemption, of how love triumphs over bigotry”.
The writer says, the work is informative for those who wish to learn more about the diaspora of Africans and Indians. But “intertwined in the narrative are issues of racial, religious and caste prejudice, and the occult, which are dealt with humorously, as befits such human contrivances”. As the writer says, “It is country non-specific and applies in varying degrees to the whole West Indies”. While it is one of historical fiction, the writer has tried as best as possible to stay faithful to historical facts.
As commented upon by others, it is a novel about people – their trials and successes, their highs and their lows– with which the reader might be able to identify. “It is a book of varied pace that sometimes makes you want to cry because of the glimpses it gives into man’s inhumanity to his own kind, but it also makes you want to laugh, and cry with happiness, when man uses his guile and talents to surmount these”.
A reviewer says, “The writer uses skilled storytelling and imagery to transport the reader to a time and a place about which they might only have heard through stories handed down from generation to generation. In this forest of riches there are many treasures with which a reader might find resonance”.
There has been a plethora of positive reviews of the book. It is very moving, say readers. It is highly recommended. Once you start reading, you don’t want to put it down. Here are some other reviews:
Some of the comments from readers are : “ Great read for a Covid era”. !
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 22 February 2021
“I was very impressed. The author clearly did thorough homework and very effectively
conveyed both the African and East Indian experience. In addition, his main
characters come alive (as they must do in an effective novel”). – from UK
“ Brings alive the lives of colonialist and colonized in the West Indies sugar industry” – from UK.
“Engaging story based upon a cruel period in British early 19th century colonial history
Well written with many dramatic scenes but also scenes of caring by colonialists and families
Sugar cane fields are set on fire prior to harvesting the canes that gives rise to the book title”.
“ Excellent writer and storyteller”, Reviewed in Canada on March 3, 2021
“We bought this book for our grandfather”. After reading it, he said: “Lloyd Beharry is an excellent writer and storyteller. He expresses himself well and his material is organized, allowing the reader to
effortlessly enjoy the flow of the narrative.”
“ You will not want to put this book down!” Reviewed in Canada on February 17, 2021
“I have just finished reading, “Fields On Fire” and am really impressed with the caliber of the writing in this novel. The author manages to weave a fictional story within the confines of history so well, while educating his readers along the way. In this manner, he holds the readers’ attention from the beginning to the end of the book. A ‘must read’ book enhanced by the author’s ironic humour”.
The book was published by Amazon on 8th February 2021 and can be ordered directly from it through the internet.