Imagining novel lives
The young adult novel is divided into two sections, 'Now' and 'Then', and intertwines the story of Shorty with that of Toussaint L'Ouverture, the famous leader of Haiti's struggle for independence. The epigraphs act as framing devices, foreshadowing the text's narrative structure, which, at once, joins and switches between the fictional story of Shorty and the fictionalised account of Toussaint L'Ouverture's life and the beginnings of the Haitian Revolution. In contradistinction, the thread of the novel, which focuses on Toussaint L'Ouverture, is a more conventional third-person narration, with the omniscient narrator recalling events directly preceding the outbreak of the Haitian Revolution. The future leader is also presented as an outsider: his rational attitude and philosophical sophistication distinguish him from his comrades. The transitions between the two sections, 'Now' and 'Then', often occur when Shorty seems to be falling asleep or when Toussaint is dreaming.