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The True History of Paradise

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  280 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
It is 1981. Jean Landing secretly plans to flee her beloved Jamaica–the only home her family has ever known, a place now rife with political turmoil. But before she can make her final preparations, she receives devastating news: Lana, her sister, is dead. The country’s state of emergency leaves no time to arrange a proper funeral. Even Jean’s mother, Monica, who hadn’t spo ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published July 14th 2009 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published June 1999)
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David Dacosta
Aug 22, 2013 David Dacosta rated it really liked it
Jean Landing is preparing to bid adieu to her island home of Jamaica, in spite of conflicted feelings. It’s 1981, and social unrest has gripped the streets of Kingston; madness precipitated by the warring factions of the country’s two political parties, The People’s National Party and The Jamaica Labour Party. Jean’s surroundings are now plagued with random killings and a general state of chaos. Migration appears to be the only option.

The story unfolds through a series of flash back sequences, i
Dec 27, 2012 Tammy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For someone like me who has very little knowledge of the history of the West Indies this was a fascinating and illuminating novel. It tells the story of Jean Landing as she travels across Jamaica in 1981 with the intention of leaving because of the civil unrest which had resulted in violence and tragedy. The novel uses separate chapters to relate the events leading up to her decision to leave and the stories of her ancestors to give a history of the island. The stories of Jean, her family and th ...more
I liked it. Great book for learning about the history of Jamaica while experiencing the book as a novel through the experiences of the main character. Be sure to refer to the family tree in the front of the book often, in order to keep the times, characters, and relationships straight. Much of the book is not in chronological order. (Apparently it can be hard to refer back to the family tree if reading the book on a Kindle.)
Skate Penny
Apr 13, 2014 Skate Penny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: colors
A novel so lovely, set in a land so wonderful, a true paradise.

Cezair-Thompson's delicate storytelling made the place and the events that took place so vivid, even with just words to tell them. The development of the story from Jean's childhood to her becoming, and the transformation that took place in Jamaica was good and well-crafted.

I felt attached to Jamaica and sorry on how it turned out to be with this novel. I felt sorry and broken with the characters and their stories. And there were par
Oct 27, 2014 Nat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: women-s-fiction
I did really like this book...but... It was an interesting story of Jamaica through the ages, told via diary-like entries (and very cleverly written by the author), but mainly via the life of Jean Landing - the youngest daughter of a strong-minded mother who is living through the uprisings of the early 80s. It was confusing at times to see where this was going (and I felt the book could have been about 70 pages shorter), but at the end I wanted more as the author seems to leave us hanging. I'd l ...more
Missy J
I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about Jamaican history. It's about a Jamaican family Stern-Landing. We go through Jamaica's independence (1962) followed.closely by an undeclared civil war of unimaginable violence (70s, 80s). But throughout this book we hear voices of this family's ancestors and about the important events in Jamaican history, e.g. the English taking Jamaica over from the Spanish (I didn't know that!), the Maroons
(first generation African slaves who ran
At first I thought this was a new book from Cezair-Thompson, so it was a surprise to find out that it is in fact her first novel, repackaged with a new cover in what I presume is an attempt to capitalise on the success of her second, The Pirate's Daughter. I'm glad I didn't realise this earlier, as if I'd known, I'd have assumed her first effort would be weaker and less accomplished than her second, and probably wouldn't have bought it. In fact, I think this is a better book, although the two ar ...more
Apr 08, 2016 Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Both an exhilarating and painful read. Some of it seems so very difficult to imagine as real, and yet, it is written so compellingly that the reader is bound to consider that the sort of violence experienced in this nation was heavily orchestrated by interests far beyond their own. It makes me look much more warily at what is going on in Syria, and question, excruciatingly, how much of a role the moneyed interests of the world are playing there as well.
Michael Tomlinson
This is a well-crafted novel, with quality writing. It does well creating the distinctive world of Jamaica in the 1960s, both the tropical country and the idiomatic speech rhythms of the people. After a couple of hundred pages I started wondering where it was going. Would the heroine go through with her plan or not? At the end it just petered out and we don't know what she decided to do, which is a bit of cop-out.
Although I enjoyed 'The Pirate's Daughter' very much, this earlier work struck a deeper chord for me. Margaret Cezair-Thompson's style of writing is one that appeals to me.

I found this a fascinating book that wove a multi-generational family drama with the changing culture and politics of Jamaica. Although it touches upon earlier historical periods the main narrative takes place in the 1960s-81.

It felt like a love-letter to the island that didn't diminish the terrible events of the period but p
Jolene Sew
Interesting read as Jean takes us through the history of her very colourful family, mix of German, English, Africans, Chinese. All this while maintaining a core story that makes you want to read on.
Fred Eisenhut
Aug 20, 2014 Fred Eisenhut rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Having visited Jamaica last winter, I found myself wondering about The country. This book tells the story of the island wonderfully
Aug 12, 2007 Lauren rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was very similar to her latest book The Pirates Daughter - an overview of Jamaican Culture, multi-generational, with many of the same character types - the witholding mother, illegitimate or "outside" child, the kindly country grandmother - and a wide range of folks - mixed race, rastas, Scots, Syrians, Jews,intellectuals, ex-pats, farmers, obeah women, etc. It's like a purse chock full of so much stuff you're not sure why it's all there but you'd be hard pressed to figure out what to take ...more
Loved this book-strong characters (although surprisingly not the main character, I felt like I knew more
about Lana than Jean) and an author that knows how to make shifting narrative actually work. I didn't realize when I checked it out that the story is told by several people.

Actually, some of the dead characters were so interesting that I wished for an entire novel about them, particularly Mary Darling's mother, the Scottish "Doctor Wife".
Feb 13, 2012 Crystal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had not realized how bad the political situation had been after independence for Jamaica. This books gives a sympathetic portrait of a family, its history, and its connection to the island. The family tree at the front of the book is absolutely vital for keeping all the characters and their relationships straight, although there seems to be a typo on one, as the parents and child are born in the same year.
Jennifer Swapp
Dec 18, 2010 Jennifer Swapp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the historical aspect of this book, understanding the drive for power and money any place any time can help you understand why we persist in maintaining social caste like systems. When there is as much power, money and opportunity as the new world offered and tobacco and sugar cane brought about, slavery seemed liked a viable option. The cost of slavery for all races was catastrophic.
Jul 09, 2013 Colleen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my second time reading the book, with about 10 years in between. Since the first time I read it, I spent considerable time in Jamaica, and it made the book that much more enjoyable. And it made me a little homesick for the island too. That said, this is a great story of family, history, and culture that you really should read. It's fabulous.
Jun 28, 2012 ToshaLyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Descriptions of the settings were beautifully written; the voices were diverse & the patois flowed authentically. Mr. Ho Song's chapter made me laugh to tears. The historical references were thought-provoking & have motivated me to learn more about my family's distant history.
Sarah Wagner
The True History of Paradise brings to life the turbulent past of Jamaica through the history of a varied and multi-ethnic family whose story reflects that of the island itself. Both engrossing and thought-provoking, this novel lends a sense of beauty to a violent history.
Aug 20, 2010 Janice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A true page turner. An unforgettable look into the lanscape of Jamaican politics. This is not your typical documentation of politics or the issues arising from it. This story grabbed and held my attention all the way through. My interest never wavered for a second.
Feb 12, 2008 Sergine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even as a descendant of Caribbean immigrants, I found this novel complex though slightly comparable. It makes for an interesting read especially if you have some background to the political and social ideologies of colonialism and its effects in the Caribbean.
This was another book I took on vacation to Jamaica. It was much more serious than the other one I read, and it incorporates so much Jamaican history. I found myself underlining and marking passages constantly in this book, it’s so beautifully written.
Fascinating tale of a multi-ethnic immigrant family in Jamaica. The action flips back and forth between 1981, when the main character is planning to flee the violence on her native island and various members of her family over the generations.
Apr 05, 2012 Charlotte rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
I thought this book was amazing. I was fascinated by the historical and cultural information about Jamaica, and the stories from different generations and ethnicities were riveting. One of my favourite books ever.
Jul 20, 2014 Jo rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: not-fo-me
I loved this authors other books, but there was an overuse of local language right from the start . I could not settle in and enjoy the book . Cannot say I finished or ever got too far into this one :(
Apr 11, 2013 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I would definitely recommend this. I enjoyed Margaret Cezair Thompson's first book, The Pirates Daughter a lot lot more but I found this interesting and historical
Jul 27, 2012 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting to learn about the political turmoil in Jamaica in the 1960's and 70's. Inspired me to find out more. But as a story not as good as The Pirates Daughter
Apr 20, 2009 Kim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this while in Jamaica and enjoyed it. I researched as I read it and it did a nice job following history. It was recommended by Conde Nast Traveler.
Sep 27, 2012 Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had reservations based on the title and the cover, but I really enjoyed this. It's a thinking woman's blockbuster, a family saga well written.
I did not know much about Jamaica's turbulent history. It was an interesting read that brought up more questions for me than answered them.
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Margaret Cezair-Thompson is the author of a widely acclaimed previous novel, The True History of Paradise. Other publications include short fiction, essays, and articles in Callaloo, The Washington Post, Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Graham House Review, and Elle. Born in Jamaica, West Indies, she teaches literature and creative writing at Wellesley College."
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“I performed the part of an odd, quiet woman, and performed it to everyone's satisfaction. When others slept, I was awake; when they woke, they found me quietly occupied. I took walks by myself. I read and sewed or sat in the garden with my own self for company. I was not missed. I have never been missed. I had all the manners and necessities of other women of my society, yet I was without society.

... I simply surrendered to that brute unhappiness which had always been close at hand. I no longer made the effort to appear civil, for by then I loathed civilisation from the bottom of my heart. Solitude, after a while, becomes the worst kind of savagery.”
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