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At the Bottom of the River

3.79  ·  Rating Details  ·  733 Ratings  ·  68 Reviews
Jamaica Kincaid's inspired, lyrical short stories

Reading Jamaica Kincaid is to plunge, gently, into another way of seeing both the physical world and its elusive inhabitants. Her voice is, by turns, naively whimsical and biblical in its assurance, and it speaks of what is partially remembered partly divined. The memories often concern a childhood in the Caribbean--family,
Paperback, 82 pages
Published October 15th 2000 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1983)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,810)
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Aug 21, 2015 Sandra rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: racconti
Non ci ho capito nulla, ho letto un'accozzaglia di immagini sicuramente simboliche, ma a me incomprensibili, per cui il racconto ( non ho neanche capito se fosse un unico racconto diviso in capitoli o tanti racconti) non mi ha trasmesso niente. Sarò una insensibile...
A short collection of short stories assigned over a short period of time for a class that, really, any class is far too short if you cut out the expectation of excess labor plugged into calculation of units and really consider the true pedagogy at hand, all of which is not my specialty if my concurrent read of Joseph and His Brothers is anything to go by. And yet it worked, marvelously enough in certain pieces to instigate a resolution of mine to not coddle the shorter works out of a supposed aw ...more
Claire McAlpine
It was great to finally read Girl, the story that is like a thread through all of Kincaid's writing and one she continues to talk about today.

I enjoyed all the stories, though prefer he style in the long form, where we have time to settle into it, it requires more concentration in the short form and sometimes rereading to get into the flow.
May 17, 2015 Debbie rated it really liked it
As I listened to Edwidge Dandicat read Wingless , I was not sure what to think. It's definitely beautiful. It sounds like a abstract poem about a girl, her youth and some strong feelings she has at a young age towards herself, women and her mother especially. I did enjoy listening to this work but feel I may comprehend it's depth more by reading the written version. I'll quote a few words that Ms. Dandicat gave in regards to this piece.
Edwidge Dandicat on Wingless: "It's poetry bleeding into p
Feb 22, 2009 Jessica rated it did not like it
I'm sure there are some merits of this book, but I'm too busy to search for them, even though this book is 88 pages of triple-spaced prose. This is my fourth Jamaica Kincaid book (her first) and I think I can officially put myself in the "I'm not a fan" category.
It's amazing that this book was received as well as it was. This is the type of book that people in the rest of the US think New Yorkers read and write, the type of book people use as an example of why they don't read books, they type o
Jun 17, 2015 Theut rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Mi rendo conto che la "colpa" è mia: ho apprezzato alcune delle immagini descritte dall'autrice ma l'insieme mi ha generato noia e poco interesse. Magari in un altro periodo sarò più recettiva.
Michalle Gould
Dec 22, 2014 Michalle Gould rated it really liked it
This is a tough one, right between four and five stars. I loved the experience of reading the stories but I have a feeling I will have a hard time remembering them and that keeps me from giving the book the full five stars. But I plan to return to it and re-read again a year or two from now and i wouldn't be surprised if I changed my mind. I think this may be a lazy summer afternoon sort of book so I'm not sure the short winter day was the right time to fully appreciate it. I definitely recommen ...more
Aug 06, 2015 John rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
This book was not for me. Even though this collection of short stories is only 86 pages long, it was a struggle to finish. But in all fairness, there was some impressive writing, and I really liked the first story, Girl (which I would give 4 stars). All of the stories obsessively focused, in very poetic language, with troubled relations between a daughter and mother.
More lyrical vignettes of island life than short stories, but quite interesting and evocative. Would probably be best appreciated read aloud.
“All manner of feelings are locked up within my human breast and all manner of events summon them out.” (p47) I read about Kincaid in an article on the legacy of Virginia Woolf. When I began reading, however, I felt uncomfortable with the writing style. It feels somehow abstract while being the opposite of abstract at the same time. It does remind one of Woolf’s The Waves, specifically the lyrical portions. She has a peculiar way of combining tribal visuals with English sentiments. Not every sto ...more
May 20, 2015 Kathryn rated it liked it
Sort of an impressionist painting of a novel.

There are feels, obvious images, but in a way distorted, or sloppy, unclear.

Lots of lovely poetics, but I've read other novels that work this way that seemed to work better, somehow.
I started this collection on the flight to my 94 year old grandfather's funeral and finished it just now, following the military burial. I did not care for it on the flight down-too poetic for my tastes, the sentences to disjointed-but this afternoon, when I needed space from the family, the wake, the hot tears falling intermittently, I read "Blackness" and progressed further through the collection. It got better. Everyone is gone now and family will reconvene tomorrow night. I'm having a cognac ...more
Demisty Bellinger
Sep 02, 2010 Demisty Bellinger rated it really liked it
Like listening to Debussy or looking at a Monet painting: very imagistic, very impressionistic. At first, I was annoyed with the repetition, but that lasted only briefly. Kincaid's prose is more poetry than story and, at times, absolutely stunning.

Her oft anthologized "Girl" is the first story in this collection. Although "Girl" is wonderful, I wouldn't say it was the best. I think my least favorite was the title piece.
Dec 08, 2015 Leif rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-best
Before Kincaid's turn toward a more familiar realism this, her first collection of short stories, reflects a modernist out of time, a woman fighting through language's watery deeps to reach something impossible: the music of paradise, the silent sounds of pure happiness. Highly recommended for readers of Beckett, Woolf, or diasporic Caribbean literature more generally.
Liz Camfiord
Apr 06, 2015 Liz Camfiord rated it it was amazing
I am a big fan of Jamaica Kincaid. This was the first book of hers I read. It's poetic, nuanced, wise and lush with surprising language. My impressions and some of the lines ("My fears, what large cows!") have stayed with me 'lo these 25 years later.
Valerie Valentine
Feb 20, 2013 Valerie Valentine rated it it was amazing
Not my first time in these pages and won't be the last. The poetic moments confuse then cause me wonder in perfect phrasing. It's a slim volume but it takes time to work through. I will be reading A Small Place next.
Dec 01, 2008 Beth rated it it was amazing
Yum. I should have known that this would be amazing. I loved everything else of hers, why did I put this one off? So that I would have an artsy treat to read in the park one sunny day!
Jul 25, 2014 Charlotte rated it it was amazing
Amazing and beautiful poetic prose. Kincaid creates lyrical and rhythmic depictions of nature, relationships, self discovery and the mystery of death. Fantastic read.
Jun 09, 2016 Nicole rated it it was ok
Although it is categorised as a collection of short stories, I feel like this might be better described as a collection of prose-poetry stories or something along those lines.

There were some beautiful parts that came together to create snippets of everyday life and descriptions of fantasy was woven in seamlessly. However, after a while I seemed to crave more ‘direction’ in the stories when the quotidian description meandered aimlessly a little bit too long. That said, because of its poetic natur
May 04, 2013 Kyle rated it it was amazing
Flips the script on the definition of what is fiction and what is a short story. Unlike any collection before or after it.
Sep 06, 2012 Kate rated it liked it
My advice for this book is, read the stories more than once. Seriously, do it.
Jan 29, 2014 Anesa rated it liked it
It's my understanding that the author, J. Kincaid, wrote this book to describe, or perhaps to cope with, a painful estrangement from her once-beloved mother. I would call the book a prose poem, which is not my favorite genre. The relationship seems to be evoked through imagery, much of it fantastical, rather than through events or descriptions of emotion. If there is a plot, it eludes me.

"A hummingbird has nested in my stomach…my mother and I live in a bower made from flowers whose petals are im
Aug 05, 2012 Lydell rated it it was ok
A short, but difficult-to-digest read.
Kincaid's At the Bottom of the River reads less like a series of short stories and more as a series of prose poems. None of the stories are self-contained and plot-driven but are interwoven with rich imagery and a liberal usage of metaphor. Several of the stories are concerned with the relationship between mother and daughter and a young woman's coming of age in the Caribbean.

The summary on the back cover of the book was rather misleading as Kincaid never addresses life in the Caribbean in a lu
Jul 25, 2007 Selena rated it really liked it
I loved a lot of things about this book. The first two stories especially are brilliant surprising strange lyric wonderful. I love the way a consciousness and and story unfolds in a non-traditional, without the awkwardness of exposition or introduction. Some of the later stories miss that specificity of moment and scene that drives the first two pieces, and become overly abstract in my opinion, moving in a weird dream-like way that, like many re-telling of dreams, seems to make sense only to the ...more
Oct 04, 2012 Tara rated it really liked it
Something that needs to be read more than once. Something that should be read aloud by someone who can perform.

My favorite piece is "The Letter From Home," which is beautiful. She starts with chores and moves on to life, happening. "I shed my skin; lips have trembled, tears have flowed, cheeks have puffed, stomachs have twisted with pain... the hyacinths look as if they will bloom -- I know their fragrance will be overpowering; the earth spins on its axis, the axis is imaginary..."

In "Blackness"
May 30, 2015 Alison rated it it was ok
I'm really disappointed, I loved Annie John so much but this was all weird and ethereal and I couldn't follow it. Maybe I just wasn't in the right mood? I did like "Girl" and "My Mother". Those two were weird and anxious and I loved them. But the rest of the book I just kind of glided through and didn't quite feel like I was actually absorbing anything.
Feb 26, 2014 Uzay rated it liked it
Shelves: books-in-2014
These stories read like poetry. The visual imagery is stunning and helps to magnify her island life. I have to admit that there were some stories that were confusing; I found myself re-reading some parts. Overall, a remarkable collection of stories dealing with female relationships, especially mother/daughter ones.
Jun 03, 2015 Ron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A powerful collection of short stories that center around the beautiful and shattering relationship between a mother and daughter. The landscape is the Caribbean but it is really the heart and soul of a woman who can't let go of the love and mixed emotions felt for her mother.
Pam Yurasek
Feb 22, 2014 Pam Yurasek rated it really liked it
If nothing else , read the first story "Girl". Advice from a weary mother- the voice, the place, the age, the damage.....all neatly portrayed in 2nd person in less than 3pages.
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Jamaica Kincaid is a novelist, gardener, and former reporter for The New Yorker Magazine. She is a Professor of Literature at Claremont-McKenna College.
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“this is how you smile to someone you don't like too much; this is how you smile to someone you don't like at all; this is how you smile to someone you like completely; this is how you set a table for tea; this is how you set a table for dinner; this is how you set a table for dinner with an important guest; this is how you set a table for lunch; this is how you set a table for breakfast; this is how to behave in the presence of men who don't know you very well, and this way they won't recognize immediately the slut I have warned you against becoming;” 20 likes
“Looking at the horizon again, I saw a lone figure coming toward me, but I wasn't frightened because I was sure it was my mother. As I got closer to the figure, I could see that it wasn't my mother, but still I wasn't frightened because I could see that it was a woman.” 5 likes
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