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Even in Paradise


A modern-day King Lear, a novel of greed, resentment, jealousy, betrayal, and romance set in Trinidad, Jamaica, and Barbados.

$15.95 $11.96

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What people are saying…

King Lear in the Caribbean—except in this novel, the flattery and deceit of Glynis (Goneril) and Rebecca (Regan) lose out to the principled, honest love of their younger sister, Corinne (Cordelia).”
O, the Oprah Magazine, 10 Titles to Pick Up Now

Named a Must-Read Book by the New York Post

“An epic tale of family betrayal and manipulation couched in superbly engaging prose and peopled with deftly drawn characters. In a story structure as rhythmic as the ebb and flow of the water surrounding Trinidad and Barbados, this revisiting of the classic story of King Lear becomes a subtle, organic exploration of politics, class, race, and privilege. A dazzling, epic triumph.”
Kirkus Reviews, Starred review

“[Narrator] Émile remarks on parallels to King Lear repeatedly, but there is much more to unpack here. The issue of racism is woven throughout, as are regional problems such as access to Barbados’s beaches and poverty in Jamaica’s Tivoli Gardens. This is also a celebration of the arts, culture, and natural beauty of the islands. Shakespeare’s work is a tragedy, but for Émile ‘the future shimmers before [him] full of wondrous possibilities.’ Nunez treats her source material with a deft touch, making this story impressive in its own right.”
Publishers Weekly

“Novelist Nunez, who tackled The Tempest in her 2006 novel, Prospero’s Daughter, here offers a retelling of King Lear. Both novels feature a cast of multicultural characters and a Caribbean setting.”
Library Journal, Never More Relevant: 50 Books for February, Black History Month, and Beyond

“Nunez’s textured and engaging novel explores familial discord, along with questions of kinship and self-identity. . . . With a nod to King Lear, Nunez crafts an introspective tale as her vividly drawn characters navigate complications of heritage, race, and loyalty.”

“Even if you’re not familiar with King Lear, William Shakespeare’s great tragedy, you will still enjoy Even in Paradise by Elizabeth Nunez . . . The author’s drama heads to a new place: the Caribbean. We meet Peter Ducksworth, a widower of English ancestry, who retires to beatific Barbados . . . Ducksworth’s plan to divide his land evenly among his three daughters goes horribly awry when he cuts off his youngest. Having been deceived by the older two, he sees his dreams of a heaven on earth turn hellish. Nunez inspires with this one.”
Essence Magazine

“Nunez has written a Caribbean reimagining of King Lear that adds colonialism and racism to the story of three sisters, the men they love and their battle over the deed to their father’s beloved property. Themes of greed, jealousy and resentment play out after their father confuses flattery with love and disowns his favorite daughter.”
Ms. Magazine

“King Lear in the Caribbean. Nunez’s latest novel follows widower and Barbados retiree Peter Ducksworth, who tests the love and loyalty of his three daughters. Like Lear, things fall apart for Ducksworth when he fails to realize that his youngest daughter truly loves him while the older two are simply using flattery to obtain their inheritance. It all takes place on sumptuous white Caribbean beaches and lush gardens.”
New York Post

“Nunez’s ninth novel is a recasting of King Lear, with race as the wild card in this classic tale of familial dysfunction. Trinidadian Peter Ducksworth—white but nevertheless ‘Trin to the bone’—retires with his three daughters to Barbados. He soon feels he has been betrayed by his favourite daughter, Corinne. As punishment, he gives his two older daughters their share of an inheritance now but makes Corinne wait until his death to receive her share.”
Toronto Star

“An intersection between a retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear and a story about modern-day racism, poverty, and culture in the Caribbean . . . An epic story that still feels intimate to the reader.”
Book Riot, One of 7 Small Press Books to Read in April

“Nunez has written a very readable . . . engaging novel that deals with big themes worthy of good storytelling.”
New York Journal of Books

“A compelling novel about greed, resentment, jealousy, betrayal, and romantic love in the post-colonial world of the Caribbean, and featuring a diverse cast of deftly crafted characters of African, Indian, Chinese, Syrian/Lebanese, and English ancestry, Even In Paradise is another superbly written work from the pen of Elizabeth Nunez and very highly recommended.”
Midwest Book Review

“While illuminating how the overlapping histories of empire and diasporas impress upon the present, the story’s questions around inheritance, cultural and social, manifest in various elements of the novel, from interactions between characters to Nunez’s erudite and ambitious prose.”
SX Salon

“As in the Lear tale, this modern-day familial drama centers on mistrust, greed and betrayals that are triggered by power, status and property. Along the way, issues of race, class, and other cultural traits within island societies serve as relevant ingredients to the chain of events affecting the Ducksworth family. It all makes Even in Paradise as much a fascinating read about social and economic complexities on these islands as it is an acutely human portrait of family dysfunction and destruction.”
InselAir Magazine

“Even as Émile vividly describes the colorful surface of Caribbean culture — its beautiful women, delicious food, vibrant music and sandy beaches — he continually reminds us of what Lear himself finally sees: Appearances can be deceiving. Ditto this book. It can feel at times like a light beach read made for a Caribbean vacation. But it also continually journeys inland . . . Hence Nunez’s frequent, deftly inserted lessons involving Caribbean history. As her title suggests, one can never escape that history, even when sipping rum on a hilltop mansion overlooking paradise.”
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

“[Nunez’s] prose has a timeless quality, abundant in detail and vivid description, and her rich evocation of culture, place, and identity make this an easy and compelling read—the Caribbean islands of Trinidad, Barbados, and Jamaica are just as much characters as any of the people in the novel . . . Nunez draws the Lear comparisons so expertly, you’ll find yourself wondering if the Caribbean wasn’t the original setting for this story after all . . . Even in Paradise is a fast and thought-provoking read, as well as being a great juicy drama to dive into just as the weather gets warmer.”

“In her latest novel, Even in Paradise, acclaimed author Elizabeth Nunez reimagines Shakespeare’s King Lear set in the Caribbean. She transforms the classic tragic tale of betrayal and manipulation within a family into a more political meditation on race, class, and privilege featuring a multiracial cast of characters.”
Hello Beautiful, #BlackWomenRead: 17 Books by Black Women You Need In Your Life This Spring

“Fragile father-daughter and father-son bonds, pernicious sibling rivalry, the complexities of race relations: combine that with a Shakespearean element, and there’s the formula for a rich and engaging story. But take note: there is nothing formulaic about this powerful and insightful novel that transports readers to the modern-day Caribbean, where loyalties are tested, truth can become obscured, and antiquated notions can lacerate relationships.”
Foreword Reviews

“Another engaging novel by an accomplished author who retells the story of King Lear in a Caribbean landscape with racial tensions playing out alongside the classic narrative of greed and parent/child relations. . . . [The novel] is structured with interesting and layered plots, but what I like best is [Nunez’s] exquisite language detailing Caribbean landscapes and people. . . . I strongly recommend this book, especially to those who love Caribbean stories.”
Me, You, and Books

Even in Paradise takes a centuries-old story and makes it modern, fresh, and relevant. Elizabeth Nunez injects lush detail and Caribbean flare throughout her writing. The result is a story whose framework may be familiar, but whose unfurling is gripping and alluring and whose voice is truly unique. A perfect spring read.”
Chronic Bibliophilia

Even in Paradise is Caribbean drama as grand epic. Nunez, always a master of unexpected contrasts, does it here again. A story told on a huge scale that still manages to be achingly personal and intimate.”
—Marlon James, author of A Brief History of Seven Killings

“The Caribbean is so blessed to have Elizabeth Nunez writing from and for us! This novel is pan-Caribbean and multiracial, crossing the West Indies with Caribbean characters ethnically originating in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. Even in Paradise adds another dimension to how we read Shakespeare’s King Lear while celebrating the cultural institutions in the region that have made writers like Nunez possible.”
—Tiphanie Yanique, author of Land of Love and Drowning

Praise for Elizabeth Nunez:

“Nunez is one of the finest and most necessary voices in contemporary American and Caribbean fiction.”
—Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin

“Nunez has always had the power to get to the essence of what makes human beings take right and wrong turns.”
—Edward P. Jones, author of The Known World


Peter Ducksworth, a Trinidadian widower of English ancestry, retires to Barbados, believing he will find an earthly paradise there. He decides to divide his land among his three daughters while he is alive, his intention not unlike that of King Lear, who hoped “That future strife / May be prevented now.” But Lear made the fatal mistake of confusing flattery with love, and so does Ducksworth. Feeling snubbed by his youngest daughter, Ducksworth decides that only after he dies will she receive her portion of the land. In the meantime, he gives his two older daughters their portions, ironically setting in motion the very strife he hoped to prevent.

Beautifully written in elegant prose, this is a novel about greed, resentment, jealousy, betrayal, and romantic love in the postcolonial world of the Caribbean, giving us a diverse cast of characters of African, Indian, Chinese, Syrian/Lebanese, and English ancestry.

Read Elizabeth Nunez’s essays on diversity in publishing at Writer’s Digest and Poets and Writers.

Elizabeth Nunez participated in Poets & Writers‘ “Dear President” feature. Read her piece, and listen to her discuss on the Poets & Writers podcast, here.

Listen to an interview with Elizabeth Nunez on The Maggie Linton Show.

Watch an interview with Elizabeth Nunez on Building NY with Michael Stoler (CUNY TV).

Watch an interview with Elizabeth Nunez at Eldridge & Co. (CUNY TV):


Book Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Published: 4/5/16
  • IBSN: 9781617754401
  • e-IBSN: 9781617754562


ELIZABETH NUNEZ immigrated to the US from Trinidad after high school. She is the author of ten novels and the coeditor of the anthology Blue Latitudes: Caribbean Women Writers at Home and Abroad. Nunez received her PhD in English from New York University and is a Distinguished Professor at Hunter College, where she teaches creative writing.

Nunez is cofounder of the National Black Writers Conference and was executive producer for the 2004 Emmy-nominated CUNY TV series, Black Writers in America. Her awards include the 2013 National Council for Research on Women Outstanding Trailblazer Award, the 2013 Caribbean American Distinguished Writer Award, the 2012 Trinidad and Tobago Lifetime Literary Award, and more.

Nunez’s works have been nominated for numerous awards, including the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award, the 2012 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Fiction, an International Dublin Literary Award, the Trinidad and Tobago One Book, One Community selection, New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, Novel of the Year for Black Issues Book Review, an American Book Award, the Independent Publishers Book Award, and several others. Her titles have also received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal. Her novels Anna In-Between, Even in Paradise, Boundaries, Prospero’s Daughter, Grace, Discretion, and her memoir Not for Everyday Use are published by Akashic Books. Now Lila Knows is her latest novel.

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