The Naipauls of Nepaul Street
Published by Peepal Tree Press
This is a moving story of a family’s beginnings, growth and, in the
context both of time and Trinidadian society, its inevitable dispersal.
Savi Naipaul Akal’s memoir pays tribute to remarkable parents, so
different but equal in importance to their large family. Her father’s
life is one of heroic self-invention, from virtual orphan in a dirt-poor
rural Indian family, one generation away from indentured migration, who
through self-education became Seepersad Naipaul, a remarkable
journalist and pioneering documenter of Indian Trinidadian life. Her
mother, Dropatie, displayed remarkable diplomatic skills in sustaining a
relationship with the large and inward-looking Capildeo clan of which
she was the seventh daughter, whilst loyally supporting her husband’s
insistence on independence and engagement with Trinidadian life. It was
Dropatie, after Seepersad’s tragically early death, who held the family
together, so that all seven children achieved university education.
It is an account of family loyalty, sacrifice, and sometimes
tensions; pride in the writing achievements of her brothers Vidiadhar
and Shiva, and sorrow over estrangements and Shiva’s premature death.
Through this focus, the memoir also gives a sharply observed picture of
cultural change in Trinidad from colony to independent nation, of being
Indian in a Creole society, of the role of education, and her parents’
encouragement of herself and her sisters to make independent lives for
themselves. The memoir gives an acute analysis of the pressures that led
many of the family to emigrate, but also of the good lives made by Savi
and her husband that led them to “put down their bucket” and stay.
Above all, this memoir offers the pleasure of writing which is
elegant and lucid, with a distinctively personal voice. The book is
further enhanced by the generous quantity of family photographs that say
so much about both people and the times they lived through.