Waiting in the Twilight by Joan Riley

Waiting in the Twilight is an honest and moving story, depicting the life of Adella. Probing the complex issues of race, gender and migration, Riley offers the reader an unrepentant insight into the life and experience of this black immigrant woman, and it is bleak. The opening passages begin drearily and slowly, immediately immersing the reader into Adella’s sense of discontentment over her job, ‘she stared into the murky depth of the scum-ringed bucket, thinking half-heartedly that she ought to change the water. She knew she should. The contents looked revolting, grey darkness of floor dirt blending with ash from carelessly discarded cigarette butts..they used her as a mobile rubbish tip.’ Throughout the book, Riley gives detail to everyday, mundane jobs describing every tedious action Adella undertakes ‘rinsing, wringing, mopping’. This clever trope however, does not slow down the reading. Instead it highlights the monotony of routine and struggle that Adella endures on a daily basis. Whether it is from major issues like racism or domestic violence to the lengthy descriptions of her long, cold walk home the message is the same, Adella is tired, she is struggling and receives little gratitude for the labourious tasks she undertakes. Written in the eighties, Riley’s understated and gritty portrayal of Adella’s burden can be seen as a microcosm of the immigrant woman’s experience at large as it shows the female immigrant journey to be doubly taxing. Not only is she marginalised because of her race, as a foreigner in a foreign land, but also for her gender through the negation of her sex in a dominant patriarchal society. In this small book, Riley takes the reader through a broad range of emotions and it is a valuable telling of the oft overlooked Caribbean woman’s story and experience in the ‘motherland’.

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