Before the Sunset


144 pages
Contains Photos, Maps
ISBN 1-896754-07-4
DDC 972.9845





Reviewed by J.H. Galloway

J.H. Galloway is a professor of geography at the University of Toronto.


This book is an example of a new genre—the parental memoir of times
gone by written for the benefit of children and grandchildren.
Presumably the vast majority of such memoirs exist as photocopies. A
very few are published, like this is one.

The author is West Indian, from the old elite of Grenada. She begins
with a brief history of her island before moving on to a discussion of
her ancestors, who arrived from England in the 19th century. They were
merchants who bought, packaged, and exported the locally grown cocoa,
nutmeg, and mace and imported in turn all manner of consumer goods for
sale through their general store. Some of the profits they invested
inland, and so they became members of the planter class. Eileen married
Alan Gentle, a Grenadan from the same social class. Theirs was a world
of large houses, servants, tennis, and, if the plantations were making
money, school in England. Eileen briefly describes her life with Alan
who, after enjoying a successful career in the British Overseas Police
Service in the West Indies retired at an early age to a life of business
in Grenada. The idyll now ends. In the last brief chapters, Eileen
recounts events in post-independence Grenada under the rule of Eric
Gairy and Maurice Bishop and his New Jewel Movement. During those years,
much family property was confiscated. Their two children had already
left the island to be educated in England. Neither returned; one settled
in Australia, the other in Canada. In the 1970s, Eileen and Alan moved
to Toronto.

Why should non-family members be interested in this narrative? In her
recounting of the lifestyle of her youth with its formal social
conventions and of her husband’s career, Eileen Gentle has described
the end of a social class and the decline of empire in one tiny colony.
Perhaps without intending to, she has made a contribution, personal and
anecdotal though it is, to Grenadan social history.


Gentle, Eileen., “Before the Sunset,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 22, 2024,