In ‘Mr Loverman’ Evaristo explores the life of the ribaldrous Barry, a septuagenarian whose rocky marriage to Carmel is on the brink of collapse due, in the main, to his closeted relationship with his lover Morris. The novel skilfully explores the masks we are forced to wear-in this case both Barry and Morris’s homosexuality-and the impact this has on those around us. Evaristo has the ability to upend and explore conventions, which she demonstrated in ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ and writes her well-rounded characters in nuanced ways and is not afraid to explores their flaws. So whilst the reader empathises with the psychological damage inflicted by Barry on having to his his sexuality, equally Evaristo isn’t afraid to explore the latent misogyny which sits beneath his exterior charm and his selfishness in subjecting Carmel to a lifetime of unhappiness. Equally, whilst the reader can sympathise with Carmel and the fact that she is trapped in an unhappy marriage to what she sees as philanderer, her parochial outlook on life and homophobia make it hard for Barry to connect to her in any meaningful way.
Perhaps Evaristo’s decision to tell the story from the point of view of two sympathetic-but flawed-characters is purposeful in that she doesn’t want to portray her characters in an overly-simplistic way; it would be easy to depict Barry as a man crushed by the need to hide his sexuality and for Carmel for to be another long suffering housewife,. However for Evaristo both of them represent more than just the tragedies which shape them-instead they are both good people whose flaws have been magnified by circumstances largely outside of their control. It would have been interesting, for example, to see what the novel would have looked like if depicted by the far more sympathetic Morris.
‘Mr Loverman’ is brilliant depiction of the psychological impact of having to hide your true nature, not just on yourself but also on those around you and offers a welcome departure from the standard depiction of British Caribbean characters and culture.