As all arrghhd-working pirates will know, a bottle of rum is traditionally used to warm the tum after long spells at sea. But when your day’s adventurin’ consists of two stuffy jaunts along the Jubilee line, rum is not so practical and a good read has to suffice. Bathed in glorious Jamaican sunshine and oozing Hollywood glamour of the vintage variety, this novel transports the weary commuter away from surging crowds and onto the desolate hideaway of ‘Navy Island’.
The year is 1946 and well-known Hollywood heart-throb and part-time blaggard, Errol Flynn, has been blown off-course whilst holidaying on his luxury sailing boat, the Zaca. Shipwrecked and vulnerable, he ends up in the sun-drenched Jamaican port town of San Antonio and falls head over well-shod heels in love with his new surroundings. So far, so plausible. Flynn loved sailing and Jamaica was a favourite retreat of the rich and famous back in the day. But author Margaret Cezair-Thompson goes on to take a few liberties with the life of the aforementioned on-screen swashbuckler for the sake of a story which features a heady mix of love, heartache, bretrayal and post-colonial politics.
As Flynn falls ever deeper in love with the island that allows him to escape the seedy confines of his Hollywood existence, a young girl is falling for him. Frustrated by the small minds of her neighbours and tormented by her desire to become something more, 13 year old Ida Joseph quickly becomes obsessed with ‘the Handsomest Man in The World’ and pins all her hopes on bagging him in a bid to escape the dreaded norm. But the moment her sweet young mind begins to wander below Flynn’s waistline is the moment he strikes, leaving Ida with far more than just fond memories and no hope of a relationship.
After a few years of struggling as a single parent to raise baby May, the little nipper hijacks the narrative and attacks some of the most complex and intriguing aspects of the story. As May grows older and the relationships around her falter, throwing an uneasy light on her own identity in the ‘real’ Jamaican community, Cezair-Thompson subtly weaves in the political tensions affecting the true star of the novel – Jamaica. The initial rumblings of nationalism and the unease surrounding independence are raised as overheard conversations amongst friends and neighbours. The achievement of independence and impact of the Bay of Pigs are digested by our main characters as the narrative spins along, taking with it the peace of the island. But when the violence of the Seventies collides head on with the untouchable ‘Navy Island, readers are left as exposed and vulnerable as the characters attempting to hide on her banks – ‘there are no private beaches anymore’.
As with all good pirate stories worth their weight in doubloons, The Pirate’s Daughter is about a treasure hunt. But the hunt is not for rubies or gold, it is for redemption, excitement, peace, identity, security or love. There are times in this novel when the plot becomes messy and loses pace, but you can’t help feeling that it fits the messy nature of the relationships on show. Forget rum, this is a true tonic for mid-winter blues.
I am a bit scared of ‘Chick Lit’.
The sneaky staccato abbreviation sweeps a sparkly lilac blanket over a whole variety of novels penned by women of many different backgrounds, tackling a whole host of themes, and makes distinguishing a treasure nigh on impossible.
I don’t hate it, I’m just a bit scared. I have read books classed as Chick Lit before and thoroughly enjoyed myself. But there are some books about love-struck secretaries falling over in front of the subject of their affection and *the shame* dropping a pack of tampons, that I would frankly rather avoid. And that is what scares me.
If you too are a little scared of chick lit and the prospect of wasting hours of your life reading about Deirdre’s hair extensions, allow me to share a secret with you: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes is a fantastic read. And you’ll find it in the Chick Lit section of any good bookstore.
Louisa Clark is an unambitious 20-something with a penchant for stripy tights and a passion for her work as a waitress in a small café. She has a boyfriend she doesn’t particularly love and no desire to move out of her family home. But at least she has her job right? Wrong. It appears that not even fictional characters are exempt from George Osbourne’s catastrophic management of the UK economy, and she loses her treasured job.
After trawling the papers for any post she could possibly hope to secure with her arsenal of zero qualifications and lukewarm attitude, Lou comes across a post as a live-in carer. Despite spending an inordinate amount of time worrying about having to wipe an invalid’s bottom (as opposed to simply asking whether she has to), she gets the job.
But her wheelchair-bound charge is not exactly easy-going.
Moyes takes no short cuts when it comes to the relationships in this book. Breakthroughs are hard-earned (by both characters and beleaguered readers) and plot twists come without the express desire to shock or upset readers. Instead, developments stay true to the personalities of the characters Moyes has so carefully drawn for us.
I can’t say much more in terms of plot, you’ll have to read for yourself. But what I can say is that I loved it. Having shrugged off self-indulgent internal monologues and ditched the handbag-crazy clichés, Moyes has instead penned a truly compelling and challenging novel for grown up chicks.