54 pages 1 hour read

Bernardine Evaristo

Mr Loverman

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2013

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Summary and Study Guide


Mr. Loverman (2013), by Bernardine Evaristo, is an LGBT novel that explores the secret life, internal strife, and conflict of an elderly gay Caribbean immigrant to London named Barry. The novel is concerned with the consequences of Barry’s near lifelong affair with his teenage sweetheart, Morris, and how it destroys the relationships between Barry and his wife, daughter, and grandson. The novel has a nonchronological narrative structure with flashbacks indicating how the past influences the novel’s present. Mr. Loverman also features shifting narrative perspectives, between Barry, a first-person narrator, and a second-person narrator that focalizes his wife’s side of the story; the latter sections also employ a style similar to free verse, often placing paragraph breaks in the middle of sentences. Evaristo submitted the novel toward the completion of her doctorate in creative writing.

Bernardine Evaristo is a decorated author who was awarded the prestigious Booker Prize for her 2019 novel Girl, Woman, Other. She’s the first Black woman to receive the prize since its inception in 1968. Her work is lauded for its exploration of marginalized, intersectional identities. This feature of her work is seen in Mr. Loverman, as the intersection between old age, queerness, and race is one that isn’t traditionally explored in literature. The novel engages with themes of Anti-Gay Bias, Violence, and the Fear of Coming Out; Deceit, Desire, and the Repression of Emotional Truths; and The Importance of Community to Marginalized People.

This guide uses the 2014 Akashic Books Kindle edition.

Content Warning: This source material includes instances of anti-gay bias and violence, as well as domestic violence. It also references sexual assault, racism, and suicide.

Plot Summary

Barry, a 74-year-old Antiguan immigrant to London, spends most of his nights drinking and dancing with his secret lover, Morris. When Barry returns home, he dreads getting confronted by Carmel, his wife of 50 years, as is usually the case after a night out. Carmel accuses Barry of sleeping with other women and physically strikes him when he defends himself. Barry vows to himself that he will leave his marriage to be with his true love, Morris.

A flashback to the 1960s reveals that Barry and Carmel married in Antigua when Carmel was 16 and Barry 25. Carmel was sexually attracted to Barry but noticed that he did not initiate intimacy. On their wedding night, Barry avoided consummating their marriage, causing Carmel to feel neglected. This feeling intensified when he was not in bed the next morning, having left for breakfast without her.

In the novel’s present, Barry has decided that he wants to spend the rest of his life with Morris. Morris himself suggested this in the 1990s when his own wife, Odette, left him after catching him having sex with Barry. Morris paid Odette not to tell anyone of his secret affair, and she used the money to return to Antigua and open a luxury spa for tourists. When Morris suggested they live together, Barry tried to broach the topic with Carmel, but she threatened him with a knife. Now he wants to show Morris that he has changed by confronting his fear.

Carmel’s friends come over to her and Barry’s house for lunch after church. Barry and Carmel’s eldest daughter, Donna, and their grandson, Daniel, join them. Donna is cold toward Barry due to Carmel’s gossip. The church women gossip and share their hateful views of gay people, going as far as wishing them death. Donna tries to stand up for the LGBT community but ultimately confesses that she would be upset if Daniel were gay.

A flashback to the 1970s shows how Carmel’s church friends sacrificed their own time and resources to help Carmel raise Donna and Carmel’s then-newborn daughter, Maxine. Carmel neglected her own children during this time due to postnatal depression. Barry also stepped up once he saw Carmel drop Maxine and after Carmel forgot Donna’s birthday.

Back in the present, Barry decides to propose a divorce to Carmel. However, she is about to visit her father on his deathbed in Antigua, and the opportunity passes by. Around the same time, Barry sees his youngest daughter, Maxine, and she asks that Barry finance her fashion business because she is struggling to get by in the celebrity-stylist industry. Barry implies that he’ll finance her if she presents him with a proper business plan.

Donna also leaves for Antigua to support her mother with the funeral, and she tasks Barry with taking care of Daniel. Against Donna’s wishes, Barry gives Daniel alcohol. Daniel reveals how much he dislikes Donna and her style of parenting. The next night, Barry allows Daniel to go out with his friends, as Donna never does. Barry is woken up early in the morning by loud music with anti-gay lyrics. Barry confronts the teenagers about the noise and the content of the song, but the teenagers are confused as to why he’s so upset. In his rage, Barry comes out as gay and chases Daniel out of his house.

Flashbacks to the 1990s and 2000s reveal that Carmel had an affair with a work colleague called Reuben. She had recently completed a degree and started working at Hackney Council. Her new work friends encouraged her to talk about her needs and desires and revealed to her that Reuben liked her. The affair lasted for five years, which were the happiest of Carmel’s life. Despite this, Carmel left Reuben because she believed in the sanctity of marriage.

In the present, Donna returns from Antigua looking for Daniel, but Barry doesn’t know where he is. Barry only tells her half the story, omitting the part where he came out as gay. Donna phones around and finds Daniel at his friend’s house. She confronts Barry about letting Daniel drink, and it escalates into a fight about his neglect during her childhood. Donna reveals that she suspects him of sleeping with other women. She has kept this a secret for 30 years and says it has ruined all her romantic relationships with men.

Barry opts to come out to Maxine, who is immediately supportive. She takes Barry and Morris to LGBT-safe spaces in London, where she introduces them to her young queer friends. The community is supportive of Barry and Morris and encourages them to live openly together. Barry cannot move forward with his plan to divorce his wife, however, because Carmel keeps extending her stay in Antigua. He hears through Maxine that Carmel is staying at Odette’s spa. In the meantime, Barry and Morris stay together to sample what cohabiting would be like.

Carmel returns unannounced with a makeover that makes her look much younger and more confident. Barry readies himself to propose a divorce, but he has no chance to speak before Carmel confronts him. She reveals that she has found out about his affair with Morris from Odette. His orientation disgusts her, and she feels like he has wasted 50 years of her life. When Barry tries to reply, she leaves without hearing a single word.

A flashback depicts Carmel dealing with her father’s will in Antigua. Seeing that Carmel was stressed out, her old friend Odette invited her to stay at her spa. When Odette told Carmel the truth about Barry’s affair, Carmel was too devastated to return. At the spa, she ran into a suitor from her teenage years, Hubert. She fell into a romantic relationship with Hubert, and the two planned to open a Christian retreat on the island. Now that she has left Barry, Carmel will use her inheritance to invite all her church friends to stay with her at this retreat.

At the end of the novel, Barry and Morris are taking a road trip around England in an old Buick that they restored together. Before they leave, Daniel stops by to apologize for his anti-gay behavior. Barry recognizes that Donna did a great job raising Daniel and thinks about how Maxine has grown in her business venture. Barry and Morris set out to explore the rest of the country. When Barry tries to confess all his other past affairs to Morris, Morris asks him to leave the past behind and just focus on how they feel in the moment.

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By Bernardine Evaristo