Annie John (by Jamaica Kincaid)

annie-john-jpgAnnie John is a haunting and provocative story of a young girl growing up on the island of Antigua. A classic coming-of-age story in the tradition of The Catcher in the Rye and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Kincaid’s novel focuses on a universal, tragic, and often comic theme: the loss of childhood. Annie’s voice—urgent, demanding to be heard—is one that will not soon be forgotten by readers.

Before I read Annie John, Jamaica Kincaid was an author with ties to the Caribbean whose name haunted me, whose work I’d never read but instinctively knew that when I finally got to it, would change my life. I was right. I knew that Annie John would be a book that contributed to my understanding of the themes of alienation: that feeling of separation from the world which ironically  binds us all, since we all experience it. What I was not expecting though was a book with prose so sweet that reading it felt ethereal, like being submerged under water but not wanting to come back up for air because you were surrounded by beauty. Reading Annie John feels like you’re being let into a secret, because you are: you’re watching someone grow up and change, and you get to experience the pain of it with them. I think that was why I liked it so much, because although it described that feeling of estrangement, it was a shared experience. If like me, you appreciate literature written by women, or by people from non-Western societies, and you’d like to gain a deeper understanding of what all of this means, you’ll love Annie John. Although it is the kind of novel that English teachers love to have students read, it’s also the kind of book you can sit and read on a hot day because the language just carries you. Happy reading!

Summary from Amazon.com:

An adored only child, Annie has until recently lived an idyllic life. She is inseparable from her beautiful mother, a powerful presence, who is the very center of the little girl’s existence. Loved and cherished, Annie grows and thrives within her mother’s benign shadow. Looking back on her childhood, she reflects, “It was in such a paradise that I lived.” When she turns twelve, however, Annie’s life changes, in ways that are often mysterious to her. She begins to question the cultural assumptions of her island world; at school she instinctively rebels against authority; and most frighteningly, her mother, seeing Annie as a “young lady,” ceases to be the source of unconditional adoration and takes on the new and unfamiliar guise of adversary. At the end of her school years, Annie decides to leave Antigua and her family, but not without a measure of sorrow, especially for the mother she once knew and never ceases to mourn. “For I could not be sure,” she reflects, “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.”

Post submitted by Kanyin

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