Sometimes it is nice to turn to a favorite author for a little comfort reading. V.S. Naipaul is a good author to turn to for a peaceful and entertaining read when life seems to be piling on. Naipaul writes with a very natural style that packs social commentary and world wisdom into prose that are easy to read. For me, reading a Naipaul book is like listening to an experienced storyteller more so than reading a novel. I decided to read “Miguel Street” looking for entertainment, wisdom, and a laugh or two.
“Miguel Street” is set on a fairly nondescript street in Trinidad during the Civil War. In the author’s opinion, one could drive down the street and see nothing but a slum with the people struggling to get by. In reality, though, this is a bustling neighborhood street populated by colorful, everyday people that make the nation and its culture vibrant. In the novel, Naipaul portrays the street and its inhabitants through the eyes of a precocious and observant child who is coming to terms with the world around him.
“Miguel Street” is a short novel that is made up of many vignettes about the residents of the street. The chapters of the book center on one specific character and display everyday life in Trinidad. There are some touching moments of love and of children coming of age in the face of poverty and sweeping changes to society. The underside of the street is revealed as well in the forms of gambling on cricket games to try and get ahead, domestic violence, and the death of dreams while others achieve theirs. The tone of the novel remains mostly light hearted and the novel is written in a manner to illustrate the local culture and immerse the reader in the culture while shedding light on universal truths and themes.
This novel is a good example of what I have come to love about Naipaul’s writing. When I read “Miguel Street,” I did not feel as if I was reading a book but rather as if I was standing in the street and watching the story unfold. Naipaul’s writing style is so organic that it does not even seem as if the words are written on the page but rather as if they are being delivered by a master storyteller in an intimate setting. Naipaul can make me feel for his characters like very few other authors and also leave me laughing so hard I almost fall out of my seat. He has mastered the art of telling a story in the local dialect and immersed in the local culture that very few authors have ever achieved in my varied reading.
V.S. Naipaul is truly a master at the written word. If you have not tried his works yet, “Miguel Street” is a great place to start. It is one of his early novels but it shows his talent and mastery of the written word on full display and shows that he has been a master since he first put pen to paper.