Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sweet Home Jamaica, Volume One

Ever since my days in school, I’ve liked reading Caribbean novels. During my time in high school, I devoured novels by George Lamming and Samuel Selvon about West Indian immigrants and their exploits in England.  Since I started writing, I’ve taken an interest in Jamaican novels.  It was my pleasure to meet Claudette Beckford-Brady and read her book Sweet Home Jamaica, Volume One. Here are my thoughts on the book.

Storyline:  At fourteen years of age, Michelle Freeman, who lives in Brixton, accidentally discovers that the woman who raised her is not her birth mother. Resentful at being deceived, Michelle goes on a voyage of discovery to find the woman who gave her away.

She engages in a battle of wills with her stepmother, fights her parents’ resistance to her first relationship, and explores her budding sexuality.

Her clandestine search for her mother leads her to a host of relatives in Jamaica.  On a trip to the island, she meets her extended family and unravels the circumstances surrounding her birth and her mother’s disappearance.

She returns to England, but dreams of settling in Jamaica.  When the opportunity arises for her to return and set up a business, she takes her chances with what might be an uncertain venture.

Players:  Michelle Freeman, a bright, spunky heroine that I couldn’t help rooting for and falling in love with. Her mother, Mavis, a strong, sensible woman, who I resented for the way in which Michelle found out she was a step-child. Clive, the caring young man and first love in Michelle’s life. Her family and friends provided a lively cast of characters and a good backdrop against which the story unfolded.

I liked: Michelle’s independence and resourcefulness and the lushness of the Jamaican culture which is woven in throughout this book.  The Patios was handled well, which is no mean feat when you’re striving to create a realistic effect and also want readers to be able to understand the dialogue. 

I could have lived without: the points in the narrative where the author repeated a few details, such as characters’ habits (eg. the twins’ tendency to finish each others sentences) and setting descriptions. I suspect this was intended to help the reader, but the writing was such that I did not need these reminders.

Overall comments: Sweet Home Jamaica, Volume One was a quick and engaging read.  The book opened on an intriguing note which pulled me in and kept me moving forward. Beckford-Brady’s feisty heroine and her assorted adventures kept me interested up to the last page.  The cast of characters was large and the relationships varied, but not overly complex.  I found myself rooting for Michelle as she met each roadblock and triumphed over her circumstances.

Claudette Beckford-Brady expertly showcased the Jamaican culture and language, which is why I’m looking forward to reading Volume two.

Rating: Four-and-a-half-stars!


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