This is an intriguing story set in the Philippines, and is rich with exotic characters and poetic language that evokes the sights and smells of a seaside town. Told by Joseph, who is the houseboy of a once rich, and still respected, widow, it relates his observations of the diverse community he lives in. Amusing and sad in turns, his anecdotes slowly reveal a level of corruption within the town that affects the lives of everyone – including himself. Caught up in the illicit love affair between the BabyLu, mistress of the local “fixer” Eddie Casama, and Dub, the son of his employer, the plot slowly meanders to a tragic conclusion; but Joseph is a survivor.
The novel is full of fascinating vignettes of life in the Philippines, and all the characters are fascinating; it is told with affection and warmth, in a hazy, lyrical style that perfectly captures the essence of the place and its people. I loved the descriptions of the marketplace, and the passive resistance of the hairdressers, who when faced with eviction simply take their salon out onto the street. It’s the kind of story that opens your eyes to other cultures really well; it’s subtle and realistic, and whilst the darker tones are clearly there, the humour and the warmth of the relationships never tip it into melodrama.
What is also intriguing is the publisher – And Other Stories, who have a different publishing model. They encourage people to subscribe in order to fund their list, and are a not-for-profit company. They are worth checking out, especially for their commitment to the environment; and aim to publish intelligent, unique novels. On the evidence of Esperanza Street, they’re doing well.
And Other Stories, 2015, ISBN 9781908276483
A copy of this novel was provided by the publisher for review