Guyana Betrayal


271 pages
ISBN 0-920813-80-1
DDC C813'.54




Reviewed by Kenrick E.A. Mose

Kenrick E.A. Mose is an associate professor of Spanish Studies at the
University of Guelph.


Guyana Betrayal is an ambitious novel that tries to fictionalize the
social and political history of Guyana from 1947 to 1974—that is, from
the early postwar rumblings of discontent against British colonialism to
independence and its aftermath, an evolution marked by the labyrinthine
and violent politics of uneasy alliances and divisions based on race and
region. This political trajectory is projected through the career of
Lucius Hoffman, whom we watch from his return to the then British Guiana
as a young lawyer trained in Britain to the point where, as leader of
his country, he harangues a crowd of his supporters after a victorious
election in such menacing and paranoid tones as to provoke tears of

Much of this sociopolitical development is reflected through the
development of the main character, Phyllis Martin (Phyl), who goes to
work for Hoffman as an admiring high-school student, and of her family
and friends. Phyl slowly grows apart from Hoffman’s politics over the
years, as all the warts hiding under his mask of popular redeemer become
apparent; eventually, he requests sexual favors from her in return for
defending her son on a murder charge.

The novel is a stinging indictment of the self-seeking and corrupt
colonial and postcolonial politicians who mercilessly use their people
as pawns in their power games. Indeed, the reader is witness to the
deterioration of the social fabric whereby corruption and violence
become endemic because they are fomented from above. When Phyl’s son,
Alex Barnes, is led astray by murderous young thugs, the pervasive
potential of the social decay becomes apparent.

DeHaarte writes with knowledgeable detail of Guyanese society and its
evolution. However, the novel has many defects. The dramatic
possibilities of the situation have not been well harnessed. There is a
lack of crisp focus, which often lets scenes, narratorial observations,
and dialogues drift between the maudlin and the banal. The characters
are ill-developed. The local dialect rings false at times because of
lack of consistency in register and spelling. The use of the comma is
especially weak. More care was needed in the crafting of many sentences.
Still, the work strikes one as the honest catharsis of a pained witness
to postcolonial tragedy.


DeHaarte, Norma., “Guyana Betrayal,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 16, 2024,