Book Review: Kalingo Blood: A historical novel by Alick Lazare

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By Swinburne Lestrade

Kalinago Blood, a novel based on historical accounts of the genocide of the Kalinago people (circa 1600 – 1700), was recently released by Abbott Press.

Much of the action in the novel takes place on the islands of St Kitts and Dominica but all of the islands, from St Kitts in the northern Caribbean to Trinidad in the south form part of the backdrop. It captures the journeys of the Kalinago (“Carib”) people through the islands from north to south of the Caribbean as they traversed the islands for purposes of trade, refuge or conquest.

Captain Thomas Warner, an English adventurer, and his crew find themselves stranded on the shores of St Kitts, where they are rescued by the Kalinago. Relations are peaceful enough at first, until Warner and his crew encroach on Kalinago lands. The Kalinago plan to attack and kill them all; but Barbe, Chief Tegremente’s Igneri captive, warns Warner that he and his crew are in danger. Warner makes a preemptive strike and destroys the natives. He takes the beautiful Igneri into his home and they have a son nicknamed Indian, (“Indian Warner”.)

Thomas Warner is later made governor of the colony of St Kitts and marries an English aristocrat by whom he fathers another son. In this triangular relationship, the past violence of Warner’s actions robs his family of peace, and his guilt is carried along by his younger “lawful” son, Philip. Barbe and her “half-breed” son are driven out of St Kitts to find refuge in the hills of Dominica where Indian soon becomes leader of the Kalinago. In the end, brother is pitted against brother in a bloody conflict that wipes out an entire native tribe.

Told through the eyes of Barbe decades later, this is a story of love, jealousy and betrayal, violence and racial abuse. It tells of the overwhelming desire by European invaders to control and mutilate what was best in the unspoiled world of the native people of the Caribbean.

Throughout the book, the clash of cultures becomes a dominant theme: the social and moral inhibitions against native nudity and sexual freedom, and the native peoples’ simple understanding of and respect for nature and its treasures, the shaman’s use of the powers of good and evil, and his acceptance of the inevitability of fate in the outcome of human actions.

The descendants of the survivors of the Kalinago genocide are still to be found in the Carib Reserve in the north of Dominica.

This historical novel by Alick Lazare will be of interest to a wide array of persons, including those interested in West Indian history (including the early history of St Kitts and Dominica), lovers of novels and the general reader. It is a gripping portrayal of the spirit, manners and social conditions of 17th Century Caribbean islands and is written with realistic detail and fidelity. It is an easy, pleasant and compelling read.

Alick Lazare, the author of Kalinago Blood, lives in retirement in Dominica and spends time researching the early history of the island. His extensive research has driven him to tell the story of the island from the perspective of its people. He has published a previous novel, Pharcel, about the runaway slaves of Dominica (circa 1700 to 1800), a volume of poetry, Nature Island Verses, and recently a short story Carib in an anthology, Under the Perfume Tree, by Macmillan Caribbean.

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