So there’s this book, you start reading it and you find out that someone is married to someone else. You read it some more and you find out there is an affair and immediately in your head you go been there, done that got the t-shirt right? Wrong. Vanessa Spence brings a lot more to the story. The Roads Are Down is one hundred and four pages of endless suspense all the way to the last line where everything finally falls into place.

This is the story of a strong willed passionate lady called Katherine from somewhere in the hills of Jamaica and her affair with an “import” Bob (imports are the ex pats. They are called that because they came to the country, well like an import.”) The story is told, however from such a unique view and with such gripping turns in the events that once you find yourself immersed into it it becomes hard to finally pull yourself away from the book until you are done.

The story is told from the perspective of two ladies, Katherine and, her best friend, Carla who for some reason Bob always runs to when he has an issue with Katherine. I should tell you though that this is no turn of the mill love story. It attacks several aspects of the Jamaican culture. It tells of how it would be living in Jamaica with all it’s good and bad.

Carla is the typical best friend always scrutinizing her best friend’s affairs and trying not to get intertwined although due to the close proximity of their relationship it is impossible for her not to and she always finds herself smack in the middle of the matter. Katherine is just a strong willed lady who has very mixed views on love and is just generally confused although sharp witted in her confusion. Then there’s Bob the soft, caring, loving funny “import” or is he? All through the book Bob is that guy that one second you are pitying and the next you are loathing he is that one character that keeps you wondering exactly whet and how he will react next.

Say what you want about Vanessa Spence but you can’t argue with the fact that she will give you something to think about. A whole new perspective on how you look at matters. Here, for example is an excerpt about love.

“… love is just another economic variable. Too much emphasis on any one variable distorts the whole economy. She says her life is a mixed economy – a little planning, a lot left to market forces. Bob, or any other husband would introduce too much central planning, and even the best centrally planned economies eventually become distorted and you have to rush around trying to come up with new policies trying to deal with these massive problems.”

Her pick of words has a way of telling you that this is someone who knows what they are talking about yet do not want to go overboard and show off. She casually drops words like uxorious as if they are not a big deal when the same words used in any other matter would completely be in your face. This lady’s selection of words makes you just want to wallow in the book a little bit longer because she uses them so well while always keeping you at the edge of your seat because you really don’t know what comes next.

Be forewarned however, the book has a slow beginning and if you do not have the patience to go through the first 30 pages then you won’t understand what lies ahead. The first pages, although slowly, form a basis from which the rest of the book picks up. However, once the book picks momentum there is no putting it down until you are done which is generally not a issue because it is 104 pages of a small, small print book so it doesn’t take that long to plough through and pick up your little piece of culture.

It also wouldn’t seem fit to finish this up without mentioning the scene that I am just about to give you an excerpt (yes, you got two excerpts this is a special week) from. This is the scene when the crowd wanted to kill a an who had stolen Katherine’s radio and ask her to decide his fate. It kind of reminded me of the scene from the bible where Jesus has been taken before Pilate who ended up washing his hands because he didn’t know what to do. Here are a couple of lines:

“… Katherine wanted to appease the crowd, but also to show they had to do this according to the law of the land, whatever that was. Not according to the feelings of Tinker who was continuing to make casual jabs at Rat Man with an ice pick. Rat Man was not even trying to keep away from the jabs, a dog would have been less resigned. The men were frightening she didn’t want to follow her instinct to let them kill Rat Man…”

If you really wan to read more well, you may have to get yourself a copy won’t you?


About The Author.

Vanessa Spence was born in 1961 in Kingston, Jamaica. She was named after Vanessa Bell of the Bloomsbury Group fame, who was her great aunt. She grew up in Jamaica and was later educated at the universities of Oxford and Yale. She has lived in Sierra Leone, India and Pakistan and traveled widely in East and Southern Africa. As an economist, she has worked in the fields of public utility regulation and development banking. She now works for the state privatization agency in Kingston and live in the Blue Mountains. The Roads are Down was her first novel.


The Roads Are Down can be purchased for $9.76 on Amazon

© Michael Onsando | blog 1 | blog 2 | twitter