The Heart Does Not Bend is the second novel I have read in the last month by a female West Indian writer — the previous one being Unburnable by Marie-Elena John. I suppose that one could argue that both Silvera and John’s novels are fundamentally “feminist” in nature. This is true to the extent that both are concerned with women in West Indian society. But these stories are much richer than a simple feminist classification. They are both rich studies in the emigrant’s experience, in the uniqueness of West Indian culture, and in the feelings of guilt and obligation in Caribbean families.
While one may consider Unburnable more of an African diaspora piece touching on the legacy of slavery and Maroons in the West Indies and The Heart Does Not Bend on the emigrant experience (or the West Indian diaspora), both are undoubtly also concerned with the family structure in the region and the unbalanced role that women are required to play in both child rearing and support — women bearing the entire burden of family life. What is interesting about the Heart Does Not Bend is that it shows how these burdens are generally imposed and reinforced not by men, but by the family matriarches.
I also finished (just 30 minutes ago) a completely unrelated novel — Embers, by Sándor Márai. I still am not quite sure what to make of the novel. The story attempts to deconstruct the basic moral notions of early 20th Century Europe — friendship, honor, faithfulness by confronting them with deceipt, infidelity, and betrayal and forgiveness. It is obviously an allegory about the end of the Austrio-Hungarian Empire and how Sándor’s remaining homeland was then torn apart by the Nazis and the Soviets. At the same time, I am multitasking by reading the denouncement of Soviety intellectual tyranny in The Captive Mind.