New novel explores slavery and indentureship

Dear Editor,

Lloyd Beharry, a Guyanese, has published a fictional historical novel about slavery and indentureship experience. Titled, Fields on fire, this novel, says the writer, is set against the brutal and inhumane conditions of the sugar cane plantation life. It is not location specific. It centres on the lives of an African and an Indian that really tells the experience of those who laboured on the plantations whether in British Guiana or elsewhere. The novel is 259 pages long.

The author was born in Rose Hall town, Guyana and worked for ten years in various sugar estates as a Personnel Manager. He has been living in London for some fifty years and has taught Academic English at the Universities of Cardiff and Essex and currently teaches Academic English and Communication at the University of Wales TSD (London). According to the writer, what took place during slavery and indentureship in British Guiana is a replica in the entire British West Indies, and even the French and Dutch Caribbean, in the 19th Century and early 20th century, where Africans, Indians and a sprinkling of Irish, Portuguese and Chinese, were brought to labour, often against their will, in putrid conditions, creating wealth for the colonialists. It is a moving story of how the two men, one of each race, managed to build a life for themselves and their families despite the inhuman conditions of slavery and indenture, where the plantocracy ensured control by keeping the two races apart.

A synopsis of the novel says it is a story of how two labourers one a slave, and another an indentured labourer, “found happiness against all odds. John, an African, chastised, brutalised, and disabled by a field accident, falls in love with a horse, and Valmiki, a low-caste Indian who, through deceit, becomes a leader of men and marries the beautiful Brahmin, Shanta. None of which would have been possible but for the kindness of two white Planters. It is a story of the occult, violence and rebellion told with situational and ironic humour. Above all, it is about redemption, of how love triumphs over bigotry”. The writer says, the work is informative for those who wish to learn more about the diaspora of Africans and Indians. But “intertwined in the narrative are issues of racial, religious and caste prejudice, and the occult, which are dealt with humorously, as befits such human contrivances”. As the writer says, “It is country non-specific and applies in varying degrees to the whole West Indies”. While it is one of historical fiction, the writer has tried as best as possible to stay faithful to historical facts.

The book was published by Amazon on 8th February 2021 and can be ordered directly from the site.


Vishnu Bisram