Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Review of 'Annie John' by Jamaica Kincaid

 "The island of Antigua is a magical place; growing up there should be a sojourn in paradise for young Annie John.  But, as in the basket of green figs carried on her mother's head, there is a snake hidden somewhere within.

Annie John begins by adoring her beautiful mother, but inexplicably she comes to hate her.  Adolescence takes this brilliant, headstrong girl into open rebellions and secret discoveries-- and finally to a crisis of emotions that wrenches her away from her island home.

Caribbean writer Derek Walcott wrote of Kincaid's work that 'Genius has many surprises and one of them is geography.'  In Annie John, Antigua pulsates with the exotic rhythms of the islands and becomes a rich backdrop for eight stunning episodes, each universally familar and movingly real."

At last!  A book assigned to me by my English class that I actually liked!

Side note: this semester, I'm taking CIS Lit (which is basically a college class) which means that there will be a number of books that you might arch your eyebrow at because it wouldn't seem like something I'd pick out willingly (which I didn't, but who's counting?).  These books will probably be written with more thought than many of the other books that I read purely because my class discusses them.  Hopefully that will show in my writing.

I've never read anything by Jamaica Kincaid, but I'm impressed by her writing.  At face value, this story is about a girl named Annie who is incredibly bright and likes to steal things as she grows up, but what I've noticed about books that are written about people (fictional or otherwise) is that they examine life (of course) and the things that make it up.  What I liked looking at with this book was how the relationship between Annie and her mother changed.  The first chapter seemed almost perfect-- well, innocent, any way-- as Annie's relationship with her mother is intact and she wonders about death.  But right away in the next chapter, Annie becomes older and her mother is separating herself from Annie.  It's gradual, but Annie takes this separation as a sort of slap in the face.  Her reaction is sad, but it happens.  It's totally real.

Her mother is separating her because she's getting ready for Annie to go out into the world and do something great with her life.  That's what I related to the most.

What I didn't understand was Annie's mother's attitude towards her daughter during the separation.  Why act so hateful and bitter?  Why cause you daughter confusion and pain or hatred if you're doing something so innocent and inevitable?

This was a thought-provoking story filled with symbols and meaning, but also with substance on a more basic level that anyone who picks up the book will find something that they can relate to.  You might just end up reading it again!

I give 'Annie John':
Thanks for reading!


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