Travelling Cari's Reviews > Olga: A Daughter's Tale

Olga by Marie-Thérèse Browne
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's review
Aug 02, 2007

bookshelves: non-fiction
Read in July, 2007

Below is my FSR book review:

Olga A Daughter’s Tale by Marie-Thérèse Browne (ISBN: 1847530478) is an inspirational tale that makes the reader realize that what you know isn’t always reality. Although this is just one woman’s tale, it represents one that a lot of people go through today when asked the question, “Where are you from?” How do you answer that? At times it seems there isn’t an answer even if you want to provide one. For Ms. Browne, the question grows even more complicated in that she realizes if her mother isn’t who she believed her to be, does that mean she herself isn’t?

The story doesn’t really have a flow to speak of since each chapter begins with a new item: a journal entry, an article reprint, a letter… What reminds us that this is a story of a real person, of her life, is that some of the letters feature a reproduced signature. This isn’t just the story about people, it is their own story. In their words.

Early on, the reader is introduced to those people who were important in Olga’s life and whose stories form the crux of the book: Martha, Becky, Vive and Lucy. It’s all in response to an ad in the Times for an apprentice. John Sinclair is selected and he travels to Jamaica with his wife, Lucy Ross. Lucy’s sisters are Martha and Becky and the early chapters are filled with Lucy’s letters to her sisters speaking of the new life in Jamaica. Chapter 3 is Becky’s diary as she travels to Jamaica to visit her sister. This visit later becomes permanent. Those of us growing up today in the era of airplanes and non-stop service cannot imagine such an arduous journey

Olga’s diary is introduced in Chapter 8, the result of a gift from her sister Vive. The graciousness of a young girl, thrilled with a birthday gift is palpable. Her stories are filled with a young girl’s eagerness to tell us about her family, and this is how we learn about Olga. This is how she tells the story of her life.

The timelines, article reprints, letters, drawings and photos which appear in the book are really an asset in that they give the reader a sense of time and place. They also help to further underscore what the author wanted to convey. Her description of the boats used for passage to and from Jamaica were complemented by a sketch of the boat. I liked the small touches such as the inclusion of the menu from the final formal dinner: Croutes au Parmesan, Jamaican Goat, Pineapple Jellies. She didn’t just describe the flora and fauna of Jamaica, she showed us. That said, perhaps the book would be further enhanced if these images were in color or featured on the book’s website. Finally, the color photo of Olga on the book’s back cover reminds us that this is a real person. The book’s artwork is nicely supplemented by the color photography on the author’s website <

Overall, this story is an interesting way for the author to present her family’s experiences and lives. By telling them in the first person, through their diaries, we’re allowed to know them better than reading about them.

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