Jolie's Reviews > The Jumbee

The Jumbee by Pamela Keyes
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's review
Jan 09, 11

bookshelves: young-adult, retellings

Credit for this discovery goes again to Angie at Angieville--good thing she keeps reading and finding the books for me!!

The Jumbee is another very satisfying retelling--this time, of the Phantom of the Opera. Ms. Keyes' version is set on the island of Cariba, and instead of opera, focuses on Shakespearian theatre. Esti Legard is the daughter of a famous Shakespearian actor, and has the ability to become a great actor in her own right. But after her father's death, she is left grieving and uncertain, and looking for an escape. So she and her mother move to their fathers' seldom used property on Cariba, where there happens to be a high school with a well known Shakespeare drama program and a resident talent scout. Also, a resident jumbee, or phantom, haunting the island and the theatre.

I was maybe a little too Phantom-crazy in high school--call it part of my overly dramatic, hyperbolic teenage girl phase. I just LOVED the romance of the story--which was odd, when you think about it, because really, the Phantom is creepy and controlling in the show. Lovely voice, hints of sadness and tragedy, but not really great reasons to care much about him. Leroux's Phantom gives a bit more depth to the character, but still leaves much in the realm of the unknown. It wasn't until Susan Kay's lovely novel, Phantom, that I felt fully justified in my romantic sighings over this story.

With all that said, Pamela Keyes has worked to bring a multi-dimensional Jumbee/phantom to life in this story. Alan is at once romantic and tragic, sympathetic and cruel, mysterious and dangerous. Esti's obsession with him is understandable (and remember, she too is an overly dramatic, hyperbolic teenage girl), and the confusion and emotions that torture her are palpable. I also loved Rafe, who takes on the Raoul character, but with a bit of a bad-boy twist.

This retelling was everything I love about that genre--a new and fresh story with genuine characters who are allowed to be whole in their own rights, while being informed and enhanced by the subtext of the original source material. Hmmm...that sounds altogether too snooty! Suffice it to say, this is the book that I talked about to everyone who would listen the whole time I was reading it, and will remain in my memory long after I finished.

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