“October All Over” by Maria Roberts-Squires

I liked the premise of this book. It’s set in 1983 against the backdrop of the Grenadian revolution, and is basically a love story, with a lot of complications due to the family backgrounds of Ramona and Fabian and also the turbulent political events. I like this combination of personal and political, and the plot moved nicely along, allowing the discussion of political events and racial prejudice.

What I thought didn’t work so well was that a lot of the major plot points relied on large coincidences. Ramona and Fabian get together based on a chance encounter on a street corner, and then it just so happens that Fabian’s mother had jilted Ramona’s father years ago, and so we get to hear their story too. Later in the book, when Ramona has been kidnapped, Fabian’s estranged great-grandfather (who is looking for a way to win back Fabian’s approval) just happens to be in the same hospital ward as her kidnapper and to overhear him mumbling to himself about Ramona’s precise location.

Of course coincidences do happen in real life. And perhaps in a small island like Grenada things like this are more likely than in the large countries I’ve always lived in. But still, coincidences in fiction often ring false for me. Perhaps it’s because I write fiction myself, and I know how hard it can be to arrange the plot so that particular characters have a plausible reason to meet and interact as you want them to. It can take weeks or months of thinking and rewriting to get it to happen. Having them characters just happen to turn up in the same room feels like a bit of a cheat.

Perhaps it was also that the book was quite short, just 115 pages, and so the events happened very fast. Perhaps there’s nothing wrong with coincidences in themselves – they just needed more time to be set them up and established in the reader’s mind. Overall this was certainly a good read, and gave an interesting insight into a fascinating moment in history. It felt as if with an additional hundred pages to flesh out the characters and make the fast-moving plot more believable, it could have been a really excellent book, but as it stands it was, for me, enjoyable but not spectacular.

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