The Red Dress
August 25, 1990, Wichita Hills, Texas. A young man wakes up in his prison cell knowing he will die that night in the electric chair. His name is Brenton Kingsley. Age: 25. Race: black. Conviction: murder. Brenton has used up all of his appeals. His lawyer’s last petition was rejected by the governor. No matter what, this day will be his last. He is nonetheless impatient for the coming evening: he has been authorized to see his younger sister Mavis one last time. A police car will pick her up at home and she will be driven to the prison for the ultimate meeting at 7:00.
The story is centered around Mavis, the narrator, who reflects back on the events of the last years, giving us an hour-by-hour countdown of the day’s events. We eventually learn why she, like her brother, has reason to live this day as if it were her last.
Waiting in anticipation with Mavis are her mother, father and younger brother Seth, who has lost his ability to speak. The family immigrated to Texas a few years earlier from an island in the Caribbean. They risked their lives in the open sea, only to arrive in a gloomy city, believing, hoping, they would have a shot at a better life in Uncle Sam’s great Land of Freedom. Mavis throws herself into the story. She reveals everything. Her anger, her hatred, her madness. She reveals everything about the incestuous relationship which has tied her to Brenton for so long, a love so powerful and violent that it came to damage their entire existence. The reader must wait until the very last pages of the book to know what crime Brenton has been convicted of, and what role Mavis may have played in the drama…and why she decided at the last minute, just before leaving for the prison, to wear her red dress…
Blood is a recurring theme throughout the book. It is inevitably spilled by those not fortunate enough to be born into the good life. Brival’s trademark style, like a melancholy blues tune, comes through stronger than ever: sadder and even more full of naked rage.
Roland Brival : Born in Martinique, Roland Brival is 50 years old. His previous novels, published by Editions Phébus, have been well-received by the critics. His last, Biguine Blues (1998) won the Prix RFO (France Outremer).