Monday, February 16, 2009

The Pirate's Daughter

The Pirate's Daughter
Margaret Cezair-Thompson
copyright 2007
number of pages: 432

This book takes place in Jamaica, starting in the 1950s. The movie star Erroll Flynn comes to Jamaica, likes it so much that he buys a small island off the coast, and lives there with his wife.

Apparently, he really lived in Jamaica for a while. Most of the events around Flynn are fictional, and although he appears in the book several times and to some detail, the book is not actually about him.

The book is about Ida and May. Ida, as a small girl living in Jamaica, is fascinated by Flynn, and falls in love with him when she's barely a teenager. At the age of 17 she is briefly his mistress and falls pregnant with his child.

Later during the book, the perspective is from her daughter May. She is intrigued with the father she only meets once. Both Ida and May grow up in poverty, but later their fortunes change.
Both of them are quite light-skinned, so many of the people living nearby think of them as white, even though they culturally they are very much Jamaican. This creates a "them" and "us" atmosphere, especially during the richer times of the family, when most of the people on the island are still relatively poor.

In the background of the story is the independence of Jamaica and all the problems that came with it, from starting out as a pleasant island with a population that was poor, but happy to look out for each other, to an island full of crime (especially drug-related), with people not safe in their own houses. For instance, one of May's childhood friends becomes a drugs dealer and one day takes his friends over to Flynn's island (where May and her family are then living) to violently break into the house and steal valuables.

Interesting is the grandmother, who lives quite a distance away, in the mountains, and who uses old wisdoms about healing and magic. She is Ida's link to Africa, as the grandmother was born there and taken to Jamaica as a child. She is never affected by the changing situation, as she lives too far away. In a way, she lives insulated from the island at large.

An enjoyable book about the good times and the bad, of Ida and her family.

Reviewed by Judith Henstra

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