Tisa's Reviews > The Pirate's Daughter

The Pirate's Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson
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Jan 22, 2008

it was ok
bookshelves: prose-fiction-and-prosefiction
Recommended for: anyone

I love the concept and the form of this book: A fictional speculation (Errol Flynn's illegitimate bi-racial daughter) on a factual situation (Errol Flynn's exploits in Jamaica). Perfect for an Xmas gift card purchase, and right up my alley.

Margaret Cezair-Thompson does well with the big-picture landscape of Jamaica, both political and social, particularly around race, class, self-determination and colonialism, but for my taste as a reader, her rendering of character doesn't develop too far beyond the sketch, the one-note. Neither Flynn's love-sick Ida nor spawn May have much interior, and this may simply be the problem of narrative approach/dexterity; something about Thompson's use of third-person omniscience doesn't give her as much room as it could. The strongest theme is that of illegitimacy, the "inside" and "outside" family drama that mark three generations of women. Illegitimacy, also, is a much stronger, more nuanced approach to the symbol/trope of the pirate as relates to all the characters and that of the island itself, but Thompson backgrounds this strength in favor of clichés of antique maps and buried treasure, again at the expense of more robust narration/characterization and the depth of the book overall, especially in relation to Karl, the shadowy Austrian archeological booty-grabber. That said, I found the characters of resistance: Esme (Ida's Chinese-Black mother) and Omi (Ida's maroon grandmother), along with the flawed Eli (Ida's Syrian father), the most interesting. Something about the complexity of Jamaican "whiteness" for Ida and May, through and between their relationships to other people, and the place, seems to slip through the author's fingers, particularly for May, whose experiences nearly reach Persepolis-like proportions, but without the catharsis.

Still, I'm glad this book exists and that Margaret Cezair-Thompson endeavored to write it; she does cover a lot of ground. I appreciate its ambition, and for all the The Pirate's Daughter does explore. It is worth reading, consideration, and discussion.
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