Book Review – Don’t Stop the Carnival by Herman Wouk

I’m sure that I had heard about this book before we started this adventure of moving to the Virgin Islands, but I don’t remember in what context. There was also a musical of the same name by Jimmy Buffett so maybe I had heard the name there. “Don’t Stop the Carnival” is fiction but it is based on real events. It is based on a real Broadway press agent who buys a hotel in the Caribbean and all the outrageous things that happen to him and his family. It was written in the 60s and also based in that time, but the story is timeless.

Norman Paperman buys the Gull Reef Club, a resort on the fictional island of Amerigo. The real story took place in the Virgin Islands and some of the mishaps were similar to real tales told by Virgin Islanders, especially all the problems with the cistern.

Norman possesses some undesirable traits. He cheats on his wife and doesn’t even seem to feel guilty about it. He gets a hair-brained idea and goes off half-cocked without any plans which makes all the misfortunes that befall him all the more humorous. That being said, you still root for him. You want the Gull Reef Club to succeed. The description of everything in the book is so vivid that you are there with Norman. You can feel the beauty, the allure, the pull of the Caribbean so much so that you feel if Norman fails, a part of you will fail as well.

Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but this book is 400 pages, and I flew threw it in less than a week. There is so much character development that you cheer for these people. No one is perfect, and that makes them real. From Lester Atlas, the boorish benefactor, to Hippolyte, the literally crazy handyman, to Iris Tramm, the damaged seductress. You know these people, and you want to see their stories develop.

While “Don’t Stop the Carnival” is fictional, it does provide some insight into living in the Caribbean. There are adventures with bugs, unreliable service people living on island time, unpredictable storms that blow in out of nowhere, and the differences in everyday living that would cause even the strongest person to lose it just a little bit. Anyone considering a move to the Caribbean must read this book.