Review by Peter Kalu

A rumbustious story of the life of formidable lampi fish seller and prostitute, Seduce, set on a mythical Caribbean island. Written primarily in a West Indian patois, Reynolds’ 180 page debut novel is composed of five movements, with each movement containing on average eight sections. The story begins at the side of Seduce’s coffin and ends with her burial.

In between we learn of her life through the voices of family, friends, enemies, lovers, clients and associates, as well as hearing Seduce herself – both telling her own story and commenting on the stories of her that others tell. The novel achieves a kaleidoscopic effect as each scene shifts the narrative back and forth along the timeline and between the tangible world and the spirit world, all the while keeping as its central focus the life and times of the eponymous, irreducible main character.
Reynolds is a supremely talented portraitist with a fine prose style and a playwright’s gift for scene-building. Scenes switch smartly in mood from raucous to poetic to acerbic to tender. The whole is imbued with a sense of pathos as the harsh current social conditions and the fraught history of the island reveal themselves.
The distinctive language used almost throughout the novel may be hard to understand at first for those not familiar with anglophone Caribbean patois, but we rapidly gain fluency and the novelty of the language immerses us in the unique consciousnesses of the various characters. They tell of the roads they have travelled, the rivers they have crossed. It feels as if every human emotion that exists finds a place within this novel’s twin worlds: rapture, despair, pride, fear, envy, piety and malevolence all jostle for a perch.
The text can be screamingly funny. Hyacinth, a mortal enemy of Seduce looks at her corpse and mutters:
“Me no know why di coffin not ‘Y’ shape, mek me tell you. Too much cocky track in she!”
At times it is deeply moving. When Seduce describes how she rescued a girl trapped and repeatedly raped on a sailing ship, she tells:
“Me hole out me han and she tek it. Lord, she was like a little bird. Her head movin quickly, lookin fi danger… she must’ve come from di lan where dem eyes is di shape of flowers dat not yet open, even under di dirt an tears me could see dat she was beautiful’
Complex relationships are woven with a natural narrative ease. Mikey, Seduce’s some time partner, describes his fascination with the mercurial Seduce:
“An odda day we sittin an di beach, just sittin, an I look across at her an me feel betrayed. Her face was so beautiful, so calm an peaceful. Even in moments when me could mek her cry out, mek her laugh, mek her angry, me neva mek her look like that. So me reach ova an stroke she face.”
For all the humour and love, the predominant tone is one of struggle – for survival in a harsh landscape  –  making the novel a harrowing read in parts. Yet the urgency of the prose and its lyrical beauty insulates you from the pain and ensures you keep turning the page.
Seduce summarises her own life succinctly and aptly: “Me was never a gyal. Went from baby to woman in a blink of an eye.”
A tour de force of storytelling, Seduce is a novel to be savoured. More please!

Seduce, Peepal Tree 2013