GOOD READING: Author of Carnival Queen Roland Joseph. —Photos: Anisto Alves

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The search for happiness

'Carnival Queen' looks at a woman's decades-long journey

By Kimoy Leon Sing

What is paradise? For some its fame and fortune, while for others good health and a wonderful family.

Some people take comfort in true love, children and romance even the simplest of things like a hot meal and a warm bed might seem like paradise to one without either.

For many people, any one of those things previously mentioned should make one happy. However, that is not always the case.

For Annabelle Castello regrets of the past and desires to override the mistakes of her youth have led her back to her childhood home in Bristol Village in Rio Claro, where memories of fun-filled days; happiness and being carefree beckoned to the deepest parts of her soul.

Carnival Queen, written by local author Roland P Joseph, takes readers on a journey inside the life of Castello and her family.

Spanning seven decades and several generations, the story unfolds amidst the lush landscape of Trinidad and Tobago. The novel delves inside the secret desires of a woman's heart as she comes to realise that all the material things she had acquired and the vast wealth she has obtained over the years still could not get her the one thing she craves—happiness.

Born to a poor, working-class family in Bristol Village, Castello had dreams of a much bigger life for herself. Though young and in love with Ricardo Simon, a young man from an impoverished family from her village, Castello yearns for more.

Castello, a beautiful young woman, gets her wish and moves to the affluent part of Port of Spain. Leaving everything she knew behind, the stunning beauty achieves more than she could have ever imagined: wealth, power and fame from an early age.

Her father George married her off to a much older man who was financially solvent and believed it would be a good match.

But as the years passed and her looks began to fade, Castello struggled to find happiness in the life she has built for herself and begin to yearn for the simple values and happiness she once knew as a little girl growing up.

She returns to her hometown of Bristol Village hoping to recapture some of her past and reconnect with Ricardo, her one true love.

After 45 years, Castello tries to remain optimistic. However, she discovers when she arrives he has recently died.

The author, not trying to be morbid, describes this as one of best scenes from the book. Seeing the varying degrees of contrast in the scenario helps to paint a clearer picture to the reader, Joseph said.

Joseph, a retired TSTT employee, decided to use his "free time" to pursue his passion for writing. He describes himself as a hobbyist writer, born and raised in Rio Claro, the inspiration and setting for his book. Proud to display the charm and wonderment of our own twin-island republic, Joseph admits that in life some people believe the "grass is always greener on the other side".

"Looking at money and material things as the only pathway to happiness makes many of us take for granted the paradise we have right here in Trinidad and Tobago," he added.

Carnival Queen was first released in 1999 and got mixed reviews.

Joseph said, "It was my first attempt at writing a full-length novel. I had no idea of the publishing world and the book was not edited all the way through. While some people saw the flaws in my first attempt there were others who saw merit in the story. In 2010, the initial publisher contacted me and asked whether I was interested in revising and republishing the novel."

"At first I said I would think about it. I wasn't sure I wanted to revisit a work I had long completed and no longer existed in my mind. I write from my imagination. I see the characters and story in my mind - like a movie on a screen," he said.

"Eventually it all started coming back to me and two years later, in 2012, the novel was released for a second time," Joseph said.

Descriptive, informative and a definite page-tuner, Joseph seamlessly carries readers through seven decades from the 1940s; back to the 1920s all the way up to 1995, providing insights into generational differences and how the actions of relatives influence family dynamics.

Carnival Queen is the first published book for the author, who originally titled the book A Fading Rainbow, but decided to change it to something he felt would appeal to a broader market.

He said, "Copies of the books will be sold at all RIK outlets and are also available at Amazon.com, B&N.com and other online channels."

"All proceeds from local sales will be donated to animal rights organisations in Trinidad and Tobago," he added.

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