Thursday, January 3, 2019

Annie John

Annie John, by Jamaica Kincaid

Happy new year!  All of a sudden I have seven books sitting here to write about and how did that happen?  Not sure.  I might wind up doing another riffle post, who knows. 

Annie tells the story of her life -- her childhood -- in Antigua, first as a much-beloved little girl.  She is an only child of her young mother and much older father (who has ex-girlfriends sprinkled all over the place).  She and her mother are always together and Annie basks in her mother's love.  As she grows older, though, the relationship becomes fraught and difficult.  Annie never comes to understand why her mother has become so cold and prickly.  She is used to being special, both at home and at school, and then she isn't any more.  Annie becomes desperate to leave the island and plans never to return, but her relationship with her mother still takes up a large space in her life.

...I could not be sure whether for the rest of my life I would be able to tell when it was really my mother and when it was really her shadow standing between me and the rest of the world.
I was unfamiliar with Jamaica Kincaid before reading this short novel, and I'm going to need to read more.  I just went and looked up her biography, and it seems clear to me that Annie John is in many ways a personal autobiography of her childhood, though an emotional one rather than a factual account.  It was published in 1983, about ten years after Kincaid started her writing career -- after leaving Antigua, she worked as an au pair, attended a community college, and then just kept going; now she's at Harvard.

The novel is wonderfully written.  Just so good, people.  I never know how to describe these things properly but wow.  Pick up some Jamaica Kincaid sometime. 

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