Crown Jewel by Ralph de Boissière - review by John Thieme

John Thieme

Socialist Classic

Crown Jewel


Allison & Busby 361pp. £6.95 order from our bookshop

The story surrounding the composition and publication of Crown Jewel affords an interesting example of changing literary taste in the last half century. Its author, a Trinidadian of French Creole descent, originally began writing the novel in 1935. He was a member of the island’s ‘Beacon Group’, which may lay claim to having produced the most significant body of West Indian writing prior to the literary renaissance of the 1950s, and, like other members of this group (C.L.R. James in Minty Alley and Alfred Mendes in Pitch Lake). Ralph de Boissière set about writing a novel which charted the course of the liberal intellectual’s growing involvement with the black populace.

The thirties were, however, a turbulent time in Trinidad and when, in 1937, the workers’ unrest and clamour for effective union representation erupted into violence, de Boissière began to feel that perhaps he had written the wrong novel and set to work on a new version which would reflect the

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