From the Heat of the Day

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

First published in England in 1979, FROM THE HEAT OF THE DAY is the first volume of a trilogy dealing with the Armstrong family and provides an excellent introduction to the fiction of Guyanese novelist Roy Heath. The story of FROM THE HEAT OF THE DAY is simple. It may even be regarded as simplistic. Sonny Armstrong marries Gladys Davis, and they live unhappily ever after. To treat some of the commonplaces of the human lot freshly, sympathetically, and with a keen regard for their enigmatic undercurrents is the major achievement of this novel.

The Armstrong marriage stumbles through its various stages, moving with a carefully structured combination of the unpredictable and the inevitable from infatuation through disillusion, neglect, and despair. Sonny and Gladys are less victims of each other than they are of their own natures, and the author’s preoccupation with the vagaries of human nature emerges with an impressively resonant starkness.

Although care is taken to avoid local color for its own sake, FROM THE HEAT OF THE DAY does provide revealing sidelights on Guyanese social life. The Depression finally impinges on the Armstrong’s resources, but for the most part they are comfortably middle-class. Such a setting effectively disposes of prefabricated sociological rationales for the marriage’s emotional turbulence. It also opens the reader’s eyes to the historical reality of a little-known society. On a number of different levels, FROM THE HEAT OF THE DAY is a moving and revealing work by an author who deserves to be better known.