Reviewed by L.D.Y.
Hardcover, 394 pages, 2007
Reason for Reading: I love old movies, so a story with (a fictionalized) Errol Flynn, star of movies like ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ and ‘Captain Blood,’ living in Jamaica sounded too good to resist.
Synopsis: When movie-star Errol Flynn washes up on the shores of Jamaica in 1946, most of the townspeople are awestruck, but young Ida finds herself in love. Years later, her daughter, May, wonders if the father that she’s never known could actually be this movie icon. In The Pirate’s Daughter, May seeks to rebuild the past through her parents in order to try to make sense of the current turmoil in Jamaica that has left her wondering where she fits into their new nation – and her own skin.
Why you should read this book: While Errol Flynn may have made his mark in Hollywood playing swash-buckling pirates, the battles being fought in The Pirate’s Daughter are far more complex and full of different kinds of adventure. A struggle for identity, a fight for a love that may not be the best of ideas, and, if you want a more literal fight, the struggles and violence in Jamaica as it struggled to find and then deal with independence from the U.K. in the 1960s and 1970s. This contemporary story glows with a tinge of old-Hollywood glamour that is modernized through multiethnic characters and mature twists and turns in the characters lives. Cezair-Thompson writes with such exquisite beauty that you’ll long for Jamaica, Ida and May, and all of their mysteries to appear in front of you, but you’ll have to be satisfied with holding them in your hand in book form as you read. Maybe it’s not an appropriate reaction to an inanimate object, but as I set down this book one night, I may have actually sighed dreamily, petted the cover, and thought to myself, ‘I am a little in love with this book.’
Why you should avoid this book: Hmm, I don’t know, do you hate movie stars who played pirates, exotic locales, gorgeous writing, secrets, and mesmerizing relationships that stem from complex characters? Because if you like any of those things in the least, you should probably just go ahead and read this novel.
The stories my mother told me weren’t the ones I wanted to hear, stories about the man she said was my father, stories that seemed to come not just from her but upon her, unguarded and effusive, or as we say in Jamaica, ‘Mouth open, story fly out.’
‘What hair!’ he said.
It caught her by surprise, the way he looked at her. She looked down at the bottom of the River where an Otaheiti had fallen and stirred it with her foot.
‘We should get back,’ he said.
When they reached the bottom of the hill, he took her hand and walked beside her. It was not an amorous gesture, nor was it fatherly. he felt close to her at that moment and enjoyed holding her hand.
Across the road from the harbor, a tree-cutter was eating his lunch, with the sawed-off branches and the massive tree-saw beside him. She saw him watching her. Maybe he was wondering what a pretty woman in a pleated sky-blue skirt was doing there all by herself. She was conscious of the poetry of it all and wished she had the ability to write something that would capture what was in and around her: the eyeless, surging sea, the tree-cutter’s stare, the blue skirt, and the strain of her unfulfilled hopes. In his letter, Errol hinted at a muddle of lies. Let that be his portion, then. She had her child.
Also recommended: The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani; Frangipani by Celestine Vaite; Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys; Signed, Mata Hari by Yannick Murphy.
Also by this author: The True History of Paradise.
Fun tidbit: Cezair-Thompson lived in Jamaica until she left for college in New York when she was 19.
Would I read more by this author? I have to get my hands on Cezair-Thompson’s first novel, and then I will begin the wait for her third book.
© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2008