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The Dead Yard: A Story of Modern Jamaica. Ian Thomson
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The Dead Yard: A Story of Modern Jamaica. Ian Thomson

3.63  ·  Rating Details ·  195 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
Ian Thomson's title explores a country of lost promise, a country that most older Jamaicans in Britain cannot recognise as their own. Once a beacon of optimistic third world politics, the island is now sunk in corruption, hopelessness and drug wars.
Paperback, 370 pages
Published February 1st 2010 by Faber & Faber (first published 2009)
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Marc Nash
The first few chapters were strong, but then the rest of the 300pages just seemed to go round in circles as the Jamaicans interviewed gave an infinite variety of opinions as to whether Jamaica was better off after gaining independence from Britain, or actually worse. How much had it retained a class and ethnic divide reflecting old colonial attitudes, and how much had it come under the influence of the American Dream and consumption patterns? The author fails to give much more than his impressio ...more
John Pappas
Jan 21, 2012 John Pappas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thomson's episodic account of post-independence Jamaica is a harrowing, heartbreaking read. Though he attempts to bridge the gap between hagiographic travelogues of the island as a paradise and the sordid tales of violent city life to paint a more realistic picture of Jamaica in the 21st century, those interviewed and observed seem lost -- caught between the abandonment of the British crown and a bleak future of continuing poverty, exploitation and corruption. Peppered throughout with panoramic ...more
Vikas Datta
Apr 26, 2015 Vikas Datta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Engrossing tale of a beguiling but corrupted paradise... Mr Thomson manages to talk to a considerable cross-section of society as he tries to explain how things have gone greatly wrong in rich land with lots of potential after its independence... and the unfortunate consequence of proximity to a giant neighbour with plenty of flaws plays quite a big part....
Rachel Sargeant
I think only one person that Thomson interviewed had a good word to say about the country. This could be because there really is nothing good to say. However, it could also be because the author only seemed to interview people over the age of fifty who may have been nostalgic for the past. Many hadn't even lived in Jamaica for years. Also it went round in circles a bit, making the same points. I would have liked to hear from young people too.
One very good thing about the book was Thomson's writ
Gweneta Maragh-borden
As a Jamaican, I was skeptical of this book because of its title. After reading the praises from other authors, acknowledgement and introduction, I threw it down in anger (I would love to speak to him face to face on why I got angry) but my curiosity got the better of me and returned to it and could not put it down until my curiosity was satiated. I still have eight more chapters to go. I love the time Ian spent on interviewing all the different people from England and the Island of Jamaica, tha ...more
May 19, 2012 Risa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Review from an ex-professor that I couldn't agree with any more:

"There is so much about it that is xenophobic and irresponsible. I threw it across the room when I finished it. If it wasn't for my deep reverence of books I'd throw it in the bbq and burn it. When old people who left Jamaica for England in the 1940s became experts on contemporary Jamaica, I don't know. What I've decided to call documentary tourism is not even the least of this books problems. "

All in all, the Jamaica that Thomson
To say that this book makes me want to read a more general history of Jamaica is in no way a criticism. Thomson's account of his wanderings in the Caribbean island, and his encounters with locals from many different ethnic groups and backgrounds, paint an eloquent portrait of a troubled country. A long history of slavery and economic oppression, violence and political wrangling--not to mention a rich artistic and musical culture, and noted thinkers and innovators--has given Jamaica an outsized i ...more
Oct 19, 2013 Leyoh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this whilst in Jamaica and it made me feel incredibly 'present'. My knowledge of the country was passable but this enriched my trip and experience by filling in the gaps whilst adding cultural and historical highs but mostly lows. This is a sad book because Jamaica's story is sad. Ian doesn't pity or mock, in fact his diary like telling comes across as sincere and I think he genuinely loves the island - as do I.
May 15, 2012 Allison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At the Calabash 2012 International Literary Festival (held annually in Treasure Beach, Jamaica) this book was described as "controversial," and when Ian Thomson took the podium he apologized to the mostly Jamaican audience for any harm he may have caused by what he'd written.

In my opinion, this book's shortcoming is that it is driven by the very Euro-centric (and paternalistic) question: "What has Jamaica done with its independence [from Britain]?" (p21). Thomson calls Jamaica a "baneful place"
J.J. Ward
Jan 17, 2016 J.J. Ward rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A comprehensive overview of Jamaica in 2008-9. Very well written, and divided into chapters whose titles are those of reggae songs. The overall tone of the book is deeply pessimistic. On the author’s view, Jamaica – while a beautiful, vibrant country – is fatally undermined by cronyism in politics and violence on the streets. The author doesn’t see much hope for it. His final plea – “take down the Union Jack” – seems more of a necessary beginning-point rather than any meaningful programme of lon ...more
Melissa Eckstrom
To be blunt, I wasn't a huge fan of the author, but the sheer amount of history and culture that he researched for this book forces me to give this travelogue five stars. I read this book before moving to Jamaica, and it was so much better re-reading after I have been here for a half a year because I could visualize most of the places that he had visited. Thomson has a skill of painting a good portrait of what he sees in front of him and attempting to connect the dots of the present based on the ...more
I read this book in preparation for reading "A Brief History of Seven Killings" by Marlon James. It turned out to be a good choice with its inclusion of details about the ska and rocksteady music of the late 1950s & 1960s.

The book also refreshed my memory about 20th century Jamaican politicians. Lastly, but not least, this book contained plenty of Jamaican slang usage & I was able to figure out what most of it meant, which I am not finding to be the case in James' book.

I did wish that
Paul O'Leary
Dec 03, 2015 Paul O'Leary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is more than a little scattershot. I really enjoyed it on the whole, but I must blush to admit that I knew little about Jamaica starting out, so a book which focused on a variety of topics, however lightly, wasn't unwelcome. A couple of chapters will deal with drugs and crime, a couple will deal with politics and colonialism, a couple will deal with music and ska.... You get the point. If you're looking for a focused study on any point of Jamaican life and its people, this book will de ...more
Jan 28, 2012 Brien rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I assigned this book as part of the course I taught in conjunction with the trip I led to Jamaica. The book is the story of modern day Jamaica. It chronicles the violence, poverty, drugs and lack of education. It details the political corruption that results from the country's new-ish independence (1962), its dependence on foreign aid and loans, and huge amounts of American political and economic pressure. The book also deftly describes the island's history with slavery and the resulting race an ...more
May 16, 2015 J.T. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cultural, travel
Ian Thomson 's engaging anthropological study of modern Jamaica stirs up a truck-load of psychic dissonance as it excavates Jamaicans' uneasy attitudes toward race, class and pervasive violence. It chronicles the violence, poverty, drugs and lack of education. It details the political corruption that results from the country's new-ish independence (1962), its dependence on foreign aid and loans, and huge amounts of American political and economic pressure.

I gave the book 3 stars simply because
Johann Brandstatter
Ian Thomson is a very thoughtful, humane and well informed writer. " The dead yard " is well researched and backed up by numerous trips to Jamaica. This is not by itself, a " travel book ". It goes into history, past and very recent. It is at times, a less than pleasant read, but, reality is like that.
This is an honest book that you should read before you take a trip to Jamaica. You need information like this. It could save your life.
Overall, in the travel/history/politics section ( your chice
Jun 14, 2012 Kate rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book almost disrespectful at certain points. It was very obvious that Thomson already had a point of view before experiencing certain parts of Jamaica. I am not disagreeing with everything that is said, but there is a much better way to articulate without being so offensive. I also felt that his interviews were very selective, and he targeted people who would share his point of view. I read about 75% of the book, and did not enjoy it very much at all.
Mar 10, 2012 Tishon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An fun and insightful read on post-colonial Jamaica, The Dead Yard is definitely a must read for anyone looking to get a real sense of what the island is like today. Though, or perhaps because, it's written from the perspective of an outsider it gives a sense of the varied experiences of Jamaica's multiple ethnic and social classes. Thomson also doesn't shy away from the possible causes of Jamaica's problems whether they're endemic or the result of the island's colonial history.
Kiki Marriott
An unflinchingly honest look at modern day Jamaica,

product of a history of slavery, an inescapable fact of life. Thompson asks the question, "What has Jamaica done with its independence?". The answer is discomforting. Jamaicans will not find this an easy read and I have no doubt that it will upset many. It is not a tourist brochure and Ian Thompson deserves much praise for his brave and beautiful prose.
Jan 27, 2011 Akin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Excellent, well researched reportage, if a bit overlong. I was tempted to argue with the author's ultimately depressing portrait of modern Jamaica; but he works very hard to keep his own projections out of the narrative, instead relying on the voices of native Jamaicans to back up his impressive research
Kathryn Morris Burgess
I finished it. This was a tough read, with pictures of a beautiful, ravaged country. 'Hateful and hating', he called it at the end of one chapter, in a tone that reminds one of Jean Rhys's portrait of Paradise Ruined in Wide Sargasso Sea. Even so, I'm glad I finished it. The meetings with a wide variety of Jamaicans stands as valuable accounting of voices that would otherwise have been lost.
Lou Alexander
Sep 20, 2012 Lou Alexander rated it really liked it
After a trip to Jamaica that meant we spent a lot of time on a resort, I wanted to know a bit more about the real Jamaica. Reading another review, I agree it is a bit Euro-centric in it's perspective but it asked a lot of the same questions I did after visiting the country. I can see why he approached it in this way. Very readable and interesting.
Dennis Chung
Feb 19, 2016 Dennis Chung rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent observations

Very good inight into what affects Jamaica today and shat dfives ouf society. All comes back to the way we have organised our politics which was my conclusion in my own book on the Jamaican economy Charting Jamaica's Economic and Social Development
Nov 11, 2012 Erica rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An important and readable work on modern Jamaican history. I had quibbles with a few of his narrative tactics, but on the whole felt I got a great (although highly negative) account of major cultural players in Jamaica over the past several decades.
Jan 02, 2012 Melisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book inexplicably fascinating. The organization was a bit odd but the stories are engaging and eye opening.
Jun 17, 2009 Douglas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant travelogue of contemporary Jamaica always aware of the historical setting. Ian Thomson is thoroughly conversant with the literature and music of Jamaica. A really good read.
Kathleen McRae
An interesting but not very uplifting writing on Jamaica today with some history on how it reached this troubling point.Racism and greed have again worked their hideous magic.
Mar 10, 2013 Carl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Ultimately disappointed by the book. Obviously thorough, but at times too much of a travelog rather than a commentary on Jamaica and it's history. Too many incidental characters for my liking.
Anne Powers
Anne Powers rated it it was ok
Jun 05, 2015
Skye rated it liked it
Nov 04, 2010
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