The Next Chapter

If you liked V.S. Naipaul's A House for Mr Biswas, you'll love...

Columnist Donna Bailey Nurse explains why Rabindranath Maharaj's A Perfect Pledge is a good match for Naipaul's classic novel.

Nobel Prize-winning author V.S. Naipaul was born in Trinidad, and he is best known for his novels set in that country, including his breakthrough 1961 novel A House for Mr. Biswas. Below, The Next Chapter columnist Donna Bailey Nurse suggests a Canadian novel that she thinks would be a great fit for fans of Naipaul's book.​

The classic book about a man who wants to make a mark

A House For Mr. Biswas is really a fictionalization of the life of Naipaul's father. It is so warm and loving, but also deeply insightful of the society from which he comes. We begin with a baby being born, and he's called Mr. Biswas from birth. He's born into a very poor family of labourers, and what the book is really about is how a person born into such a lowly situation tries to make something of themselves. So throughout his life, he just wants to make a mark, and one of the main ways he wants to make a mark is by having a house. In those days of indentured servitude, so many people went through life without birth certificates or death certificates. He wants a monument to himself — he wants something that says "I was here."

The Canadian book that's a perfect match

Rabindranath Maharaj's A Perfect Pledge is a wonderful book that I don't think we hear enough about. Both books begin with a birth — A Perfect Pledge begins with the birth of Geevan, who's called Jeeves, a fourth child for his aging father. His family also doesn't have a lot. It feels like Maharaj's book moves us forward a generation in that the family does have a house, so we're not talking about a house. We're in a new generation, and he's thinking about independence. What this character is thinking about is, what is the meaning of independence? He thinks everybody should be in charge of their own life, and that moves us forward in the Caribbean story.

Donna Bailey Nurse's comments have been edited and condensed.