The True History of Paradise
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Review of The True History of Paradise
The True History of Paradise by Margaret Cezair-Thompson follows Jean Landing as she flees Jamaica to begin a new life in the USA, following her thoughts, memories and the "voices" of her ancestors. The book is set in 1981, 19 years after independence, political violence has swept across Jamaica and the country is falling apart.
Jean has made the hard decision to leave her home country, the death of her sister, Lana, strengthens rather than shakes her resolve to leave and she sets off the afternoon after her funeral. As Jean travels through the island, passing through various police checkpoints, she remembers her past and hears "voices" of her ancestors.
The book alternates between Jean's journey across Jamaica, her childhood and vignettes told by her ancestors. The stories from her ancestors tell of many important events in Jamaica's history from a variety of perspectives (from a Spanish explorer, a Yoruba slave, immigrants from the UK, Germany, China and India) providing a window to the social history of the troubled "paradise" island of Jamaica. The memories from Jean's own life describe not only her family's history but also the history of post-independence Jamaica and its decline into near anarchy by the late 1970s.
There are many strong characters in the True History of Paradise such as Jean's sister Lana, a very complicated and troubled character who is endowed with beauty and charm but, from her illegitimate conception, she has been a source of shame for her mother. The girls' mother, Monica, is a strong Jamaican matriarch whose determination to be strong and raise her daughters to be tough enough to survive and thrive have alienated her from her family. Their father, Roy Landing, is the polar opposite of Monica, he is an artistic dreamer from a privileged background who passionately believes in his newly independent country.© 2013 Jamaica Travel and Culture .com