Cynric Williams’ Hamel, the Obeah Man () is the first novel written in or about the West Indies to feature an obeah practitioner as. Anonymous, Hamel, the Obeah Man, London: Macmillan, , xxvi, pages. The book Hamel, the. Notes. Abstract: Book description from critical edition from Broadview Press: “Hamel, the Obeah Man is set against the backdrop of early.

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Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Hamel, the Obeah Man by Cynric R. Hamle, the Obeah Man is arguably the most important nineteenth-century English novel of the Caribbean. Paperbackpages.

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Feb 03, Rita Lamb rated it liked it. This is such an unusual book. On one level it’s an early 19th c. On another, it’s a meditation on colonial Jamaican society, black, brown and white, from the viewpoint of a slave-owning planter, on the cusp of Emancipation.

Hamel, the Obeah man

I would have expected something I would certainly have expected the author to defend slavery, the status quo, and he does. So you’d think he would show the white planters This is such an unusual book. So you’d think he would show the white planters as naturally superior – commanding, handsome, civilised and aloof? A bit like Tolkien’s elves?

No, mostly they’re idiots. And about as ugly as trolls.

Hamel, the Obeah Man

Black people sometimes despise them and often find them ridiculous, clearly with good reason. Black people even beat them up from time to time and on one occasion very nearly lynch one, all seemingly without legal repercussions.

The chief villain, a would-be instigator of a slave revolt, is depicted as a simple monster. He has not a redeeming feature.

He is a treacherous, cowardly, sneaking, manipulative, hypocritical, lying, conscienceless, child-murdering arsonist and rapist. And a Methodist minister. Yes, my jaw dropped too. Both the villain’s black co-conspirators are shown as his moral and intellectual superiors and one – Hamel, the slender, enigmatic Obeah man himself – is emerging as a steely, if melancholy, mastermind.

He has all the manly virtues but is less sneaky than the villain and less intellectual than Hamel. The plot is frankly unbelievable, not least in being based on a paternalist fantasy that most poor people, given a choice, would prefer slave status to being free.


I think Jamaican history proved the author wrong there: But, but – he makes you feel things from his perspective sometimes. You get some insight into his feelings about the tsunami of moral superiority thundering over the ocean from abolitionist Britain – that rouses him to a near-frenzy.

He is far, far more incensed against interfering evangelicals than he is against rebelling slaves. He is pro-colonial; anti-imperialist; pro-slavery;anti-moralbusybodying. At one point Hamel calmly explains to the heroine’s planter father – whose daughter has been kidnapped by the rebels – exactly what he has been doing, and why.

He has raised rebellion because: I would have revenged myself on the buckras, for bringing me away from my own country, and selling me to a Negro. I would have made Combah king of the island, to revenge myself on the missionaries, and secured to him your daughter, and half-a-dozen more white women, to teach the buckras that black men have as much courage, and power, and knowledge, and strength, and right, as white ones.

They will repay one day on all your heads. There is justice upon the earth, though it seems to sleep; and the black men shall, first or last, shed your blood, and toss your bodies into the sea!

Hamel, the Obeah Man – Cynric R. Williams – Google Books

His excuse for keeping the status quo seems to be that the alternative social model offered by England is equally bad. Society in both countries is profoundly unequal: So he prefers a sort of plantation-based, benevolent kbeah to ruthless industrialisation. I do think he soft-pedals the amount of violence facing the slaves in their daily lives.

The other surprising thing is how deeply the author who was apparently born and raised in England and who ultimately died there loves Jamaica. Not its human aspect so much as the island itself: You know he does, because though he never directly rhapsodises about the Jamaican landscape, he can’t stop mentioning it. Its presence has sunk permanently into his mind. His other obvious love is for mixed-race Jamaican women – often stunningly beautiful, and, unlike white women, not vacuum-packed in deadening sexual purity.

Ha,el nominal heroine is Joanna, a planter’s virgin daughter: Joanna is given nothing to do but pine silently for her lover and weep over her mother’s grave. Michal is at peace with her complete self: Don’t get me wrong, this book is not up there with ‘Persuasion’, ‘Wuthering Heights’, or ‘Vanity Fair’.

Perhaps it’s not even a good read. It’s formless, a bit silly, the characters are often stereotypes, the humour dated and the chief villain is just a whipping-boy for the author’s personal rage at moral evangelism. And the ending is impressive: Hamel, forced to choose between saving a white friend to whom he owes a personal debt and his duty to the rebels, consciously chooses his friend.


Thereafter he is morally stricken. He has broken his oath. The whites offer hte gold, and a life of peace and honour. He will go back “to my mother’s country”. He hoists sail in his little canoe and heads ‘eastward’ – but eastward to Haiti, or on an impossible voyage to Africa?

The white men stand on the beach and strain their eyes for the last glimpse of his dwindling craft, but they never learn more of his fate. I even think Williams had plans to write another book, perhaps taking up the story of Michal, whom he clearly sees as his most fascinating character. But he died within five years of ‘Hamel’ and if he began another work, it’s lost. Not a great writer, but a writer with his teeth into a great subject.

This is an old-school gothic novel set in colonial Jamaica. Very slow moving and murky, nan the usual mix of jealousy, lust, ambition and cruelty Feb 10, Olivia Mastin rated it liked it. It was a lot of things, but mainly Ella rated it it was ok Feb 06, Joel rated it really liked it Mar 02, Daniel rated it it was amazing Jan 26, Maria Johansen rated it really liked it Feb 26, Diana rated it did not like it Apr 13, Kristen Hausman rated it really liked it Dec 12, Brittany Wood rated it really liked it Jul 14, Liara Ali rated it did not like it Jun 29, Amy Hastey rated it did not like it Jul 31, Ricci rated it liked it Jun 30, Liz rated it really liked it Aug 04, Kalisha rated it it was amazing Oct 25, Christine Hwang rated it really liked it Obesh 04, Christopher Alonso rated it did not like it Mar 28, Elin rated it liked it Jul 08, Bryan rated it did not like it Mar 28, Tamsin rated it really liked it Jul 11, Bob rated it really liked it Oct 15, Ashleigh Cairns rated it it was ok Jul 20, Mike marked tthe as to-read Feb 11, Yasmin marked it as to-read Oct 05, Yaniel marked it as to-read Feb 09,