About this book
Finalist, Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction
Longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize
Longlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
Winner, ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award (GOLD), Literary Fiction
Shortlisted for Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize (BC Book Prizes)
Shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book
Shortlisted for City of Toronto Book Award
Shortlisted for the Amazon.ca/Books In Canada First Novel Award
Shortlisted for the ReLit Award, Best Novel
Shortlisted for One Book, One Vancouver
Featured on CBC's "Between the Covers"
A soucouyant is an evil spirit in Caribbean folklore, and a symbol here of the distant and dimly remembered legacies that continue to haunt the Americas. This extraordinary first novel set in Ontario, in a house near the Scarborough Bluffs, focuses on a Canadian-born son who despairingly abandons his Caribbean-born mother suffering from dementia.
The son returns after two years to confront his mother but also a young woman who now mysteriously occupies the house. In his desire to atone for his past and live anew, he is compelled to imagine his mother's life before it all slips into darkness―her arrival in Canada during the early sixties, her childhood in Trinidad during World War II, and her lurking secret that each have tried to forget.
Luminously poetic, Soucouyant
marks the arrival of a major new literary talent in Canada.
German-language rights sold to Suhrkamp
French-language rights sold to Editions Zoe
Albanian-language rights sold to Shkupi (Macedonia)
Film option sold to Ian Harnarine and Jon Malkiel
David Chariandy is a brilliant young writer whose novel, Soucouyant
, is tender and beautiful, but also as tough and craggy and precipitous as the Scarborough Bluffs where it is set. Soucouyant
is about the disintegration of a mother's life, witnessed and described by her son with a compassionate accuracy, a man in the drifting soul of a woman. With careful brushstrokes and symphonic imagination, the author reveals to us the crises of filial love, of multicultural society, of language itself. The resulting narrative is magnificent.
This is an electrifying novel by an extremely gifted writer. Soucouyant
is about personal history but it is also much more than that. It is about time and place and the individual's quest for a vantage point between the new world and the old. Soucouyant
bridges geographic, cultural, and generational gaps, and it is 'told' with great beauty and sensitivity towards loss and pain that is extremely rare. The writing itself is of the highest order. This is a novel that will remain with readers for a long time.
David Chariandy fully inhabits his story, his authorial labours surefooted and invisible. His closing chapter reprises that authenticity, revealing childhood horrors that shock us to a final understanding.
―The Globe & Mail
A haunting coming-of-age story.
This elegant and accomplished book strikes me as Southern in its historical preoccupation with racism, violence, and dispossession, and the impact of these things on contemporary experience.... This is a very successful novel, partly due to an unerring consistency of tone, which is eerie and melancholic, but also due to Chariandy's tender portrayal of Adele, whose exuberant spirit, even in fragile, deepest madness, is never entirely extinguished. Chariandy is an observant, eloquent writer.
―Donna Nurse, Toronto Star
Not many books have re-read appeal, at least not to a critic. But after finishing David Chariandy's Soucouyant
, I returned to the beginning and started all over again, finding renewed pleasure in each lyrical line.... Chariandy's heart-wrenching tale of a son trying to reconnect with a mother who has sunk deep into the mysterious nowhere land of Alzheimer's leaves a deep imprint upon the soul.... The texture of his prose is silken, his phrasing melodic.
moves fluidly between past and present. Chariandy's writing is filled with striking details, moments both humorous and poignant and solid narrative pacing.... The demons that come to life in this powerful story of remembrance will seem familiar if you've ever tried to make amends for past errors, or loved someone through the anguish of forgetting.
pulses with life and vigour, even as it breaks under the weight of age and sorrow. Chariandy writes with a rich clarity that never feels
cluttered, an elliptical approach to both characterization and storytelling that feels utterly natural and unmannered. Rooting the novel in both the domestic and the fabulous, he avoids the pitfalls of each; in weaving the disparate strands together, he is able to explore the deep mysteries at the heart of families and individuals to find the truth at their core. It's a delicate balancing act, and Chariandy never falters. The result is a novel that's impossible to predict, and impossible to pin down. To read it is to be reminded of the power of writing, of storytelling, of lives laid bare, in all their secrets and mysteries, on the page.
A striking, darkly beautiful literary debut.
A mature, subtly engrossing work that offers a depiction of early onset of dementia that is both compassionate and true.
A frightfully imaginative yet psychologically astute novel.
―Winnipeg Free Press
A deeply moving debut novel..... Soucouyant
may be subtitled "a novel of forgetting," but it will stay with you for a long time.
The novel's charm lies in Chariandy's ability to convey tenderness, heartache, and humour.
Chariandy layers his story, looking at issues of race and punching up the text with descriptions so delicate and perfect that readers may actually find themselves remembering moments from their own lives.
―Rain Taxi Review of Books
At times tangled and night-sick and at others hilariously lucid, Soucouyant
is a fast, true read that leaves an indelible impression.
As far as I'm concerned, Soucouyant
is the best novel of 2007.... It's a crisp, tightly written novel, one that presents its narrative with a careful ear towards perfection. Chariandy makes sure that every note sounds right. It is a very readable, teachable novel, and I think that we should expect great things from him in years to come.
Chariandy has created a breathtaking panorama of two lives and the ways they've shaped each other. Tight, expansive, poetic, and true to the realities of presenile dementia, Chariandy's world is brutal, sympathetic, and beautiful.
Chariandy pulls off achingly beautiful prose, the kind of writing that you want to read aloud to have the words roll around on your tongue, reminiscent of Arundhati Roy's poetic language in The God of Small Things
. Some of the passages simply take your breath away with their trenchant observations.