Moses has been living in Water (Bayswater) for a long time now (ten years by the end of the book) so he is the one the others turn to as fixer. He goes down to Waterloo Station to meet new boy Galahad from the boat train; Galahad stays the night in his rented room and then goes to the Labour Exchange in the morning. Then the canvas broadens to include other characters: Tolroy with his Mum and Tanty, Cap the Nigerian who never ever works but lives by scrounging from others ad always manages to have a girl, Lewes who beats wife Agnes every night until she leaves him, Five After Midnight who always disrupts the parties that Harris arranges. Wonderful characters, loose plot. But what makes the book brilliant is the fabulous mixture of English and patois in which Selvon writes.
- "And this sort of thing was happening at a time when the English people starting to make rab about how too much West Indians coming to the country." (p 2)
- "whatever the newspaper and the radio say in this country, that is the people Bible" (p 2)
- When newcomer Galahad observes vapour coming from people's mouths in the cold winter, old-timer Moses tells him "Sometimes the words freeze and you have to melt it to make the talk." but Galahad is sharp enough to realise he is being teased (p 15)
- "It all well and good to play boldface in a small place like Trinidad" (p 20)
- "You try to fool people that you know everything, then when you get lash you come bawling" (p 20)
- "It ain't have no place in the world that exactly like a place where a lot of men get together to look for work and draw money from the Welfare State while they ain't working. Is a kind of place where hate and disgust and avarice and malice and sympathy and sorrow and pity all mix up. Is a place where everyone is your enemy and your friend." (p 27)
- "In the world today, a job is all the security a man have. A job mean place to sleep, food to eat, cigarette to smoke. ... when a man out of work he like a fish out of water gasping for breath." (p 27)
- "Yet is so things does happen in life. You work things out in your own mind to a kind of pattern, in a sort of sequence, and one day bam! something happen to throw everything out of gear, what you expect to happen never happen, what you don't expect to happen always happen, and you have to start thinking all over again." (p 40)
- "Things does have a way of fixing themselves, whether you worry or not. If you hustle, it will happen, if you don't hustle, it will still happen. Everybody living to dead, no matter what they doing while they living, in the end everybody dead." (p 52)
- "London is a place like that. It divide up in little worlds, and you stay in the world you belong to and you don't know anything about what happening in the other ones except what you read in the papers." (p 60)
- "People get tired after a time with who poor and who rich and who catching arse and who well off, they don't care any more." (p 61)
- "You might meet them hunch-up in a bus-queue." (p 61)
- "All he know is that a tanner fall in the road, and he had to watch it else it roll and get lost." (p 62)
- "I meeting that piece of skin tonight" (p 71)
- "Lord, that is life for you, that is it. To meet a craft there, and take she out some place." (p 73)
- "The summer night descend with stars, they walking hand in hand, and Galahad feeling hearts." (p 81)
- "He walking upright like if he is alone who alive in the world." (p 103)
- "Next thing you hear, the wife horning them and the marriage gone puff." (p 129)
- "It was a summer night: laughter fell softly: it was the sort of night that if you wasn't making love to a woman you feel you was the only person in the world like that." (p 139; last sentence).
Magical and important. February 2017; 139 pages
The adventures of Moses are continued in the sequel: Moses Ascending.