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  • A Room on the Hill

  • By St. Omer Garth
  • ISBN 9781845230937
  • John Lestrade is attempting to come to terms with the suicide of his friend Stephen and his guilt that he did nothing to prevent it. In an island society suffocating in its smallness and deeply in the grip of a reactionary Roman Catholicism, Lestrade feels like a sleepwalker, almost a zombie. The escape to a room on the hill is an act of internal exile, an attempt to find in isolation the space to cut away through honest self-reflection the inauthentic, automaton-like quality of his life. But, unsparing both of himself and of others, Lestrade’s self-loathing despair poisons any hope of relationship with others. It is only when his friend Derek’s abandoned girlfriend is killed in a reckless, even suicidal car crash, and is then refused a proper church burial by the Catholic church, that Lestrade is induced to action, when with his friends there is an attempt to hold an unofficial ceremony. But this circumscribed protest is put into perspective by two parades that interrupt it, one of masqueraders, the other of Old Alphonse, recently released from the lunatic asylum, who is leading a joyous procession of children. In the energy of the latter in particular and in its clear rejection of the colonial straightjacket that locks in the middle-class intellectuals in the novel, there is an image of some possibility, an escape from the inauthentic. Garth St Omer was born in Castries, St Lucia in 1931. During the earlier 1950s St Omer was part of a group of artists in St Lucia including Roderick and Derek Walcott and the artist Dunstan St Omer.