Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Augustown” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


4.31  ·  Rating details ·  2,399 ratings  ·  405 reviews
From the winner of the Forward Prize, Augustown is a magical and haunting novel set in the underbelly of Jamaica.

Ma Taffy may be blind but she sees everything. So when her great-nephew Kaia comes home from school in tears, what she senses sends a deep fear running through her. While they wait for his mama to come home from work, Ma Taffy recalls the story of the flying pr
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published August 11th 2016 by Weidenfeld and Nicolson
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Augustown, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Sophia Grant The story of black people flying back to Africa is common in the African diaspora. That theme was also addressed in The Water Dancer.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.31  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,399 ratings  ·  405 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Augustown
There is very little doubt in my mind that Augustown is brilliant.  It is such a simple tale and yet so complex in the moods and emotions evoked.  He showcases that what happens (the event) is not the story.  What happens is only the face or the cover.  The story, the reverberations, the impact, the undercurrents, the culture, the resentment, the simmering anger, the privilege, the inequities; all of these things and more are percolating in communities.  Flowing, growing, changing.  It's all flu ...more
Updated May 23

Each day contains much more than its own hours, or minutes, or seconds. In fact, it would be no exaggeration to say that each day contains all of history.

In re-reading this book I was reminded how much of a master author and poet Kei Miller is. I cannot get over how he is able to interweave stories and bring you to the best climax. A thorough examination of a period on Jamaica's history that deserves to be read.

December 2018
The story of Bedward is not the one they been tell
Apr 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What is Augustown about? Here’s the author, speaking through one of his characters: “Look, this isn’t magic realism. This is not another story about superstitious island people and their primitive beliefs. No. You don’t get off that easy. This is a story about people as real as you are, and as real as I once was before I became a bodiless thing floating up here in the sky.”

Intrigued? How could you not be? This book is simply magnificent, a testimony to where the creative mind can take us and an
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Trish by: Monica
Augustown by Kei Miller An inverted gold crown on a jet background graces my cover of Kei Miller’s 2016 novel Augustown and the fiction points to the couple of days in the 20th C when the power structure inverted in a small town in Jamaica. A flying preacher, Alexander Bedward, is instrumental in inspiring the beginnings of the Rastafarian movement in 1920’s Jamaica. That story is wrapped around a more current parallel story of Gina, the clever girl some thought would also fly. "...the stories bounce against each ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I selected this book from the Tournament of Books longlist as a potential dark horse. I really liked it and would love to see it make the shortlist. I like the way it plays with storytelling and assumptions the reader might be making.

Halfway through, I was confronted with this:
"Look, this isn't magic realism. This is not another story about superstitious island people and their primitive beliefs. No. You don't get off that easy. This is a story about people as real as you are, and as real as I o
With this amazing novel, Miller provides a portrait of 20th century Jamaican history through conversations, retelling of folk stories and witnessed events (with mythic interpretation). We see attempts of the darkest-skin people to break free spiritually in a culture where skin tone defines class. All of this happens in Augustown, the poor section of Kingston.

Ma Taffy has raised three girls and now the child of the last, a six year old boy, Kaia. He is being raised Rastafarian by his mother, Gina
lark benobi
A hauntingly beautiful and yet brutal story. It's a hard combination to pull off, and Miller does it. Lyricism can be used to make ugly things too pretty and bearable but I never felt that Miller walked into this trap--instead, his poetry of expression allowed me to look straight into the story, and to see the humanity and uniqueness of his characters.

Augustown also manages to tell a lot of story in a little book--only 250 pages. In these ways I prefer it to Marlon James's bludgeon of a masterp
this is the story of the jamaican people but it is also the story
of all the people
with melatonin in their skin
who were enslaved
and then were freed
and nothing changed because
they were owned anyway
so they created their stories
and the stories are true
they are stories of hope and elevation
even as
they are still owned
and traumatized
and casually lynched
and you

they fly.
Jun 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-authors
Look, this isn’t magic realism. This is not another story about superstitious island people and their primitive beliefs. No. You don’t get off that easy. This is a story about people as real as you are, and as real as I once was before I became a bodiless thing floating up here in the sky. You may as well stop to consider a more urgent question; not whether you believe in this story or not, but whether this story is about the kinds of people you have never taken the time to believe in.

Andrew Bedward (1848 – 1930) was one of the most successful preachers of Jamaican Revivalism. His followers became Garveyites and then later Rastafarians. They fought against colonial and white oppression. Born in St. Andrew’s Parish north of Kingston, Jamaica, it is in this same parish in which August Town exists today, the Augustown of the book’s title.

When the GR book description states that Ma Taffy “recalls the story of the flying preacherman”, it is Andrew Bedward that she is speaking of.
Elyse  Walters
Audiobook... read by Dona Croll

Kei Miller is a new author to me.
Her poetic/lyrical prose is atmospheric...beautiful... and moving.

Learning more about the Rastafarian history - and Jamaica in the 1930s was just the tip of the iceberg illuminating.
A little boy ‘crying’ breaks our hearts from the get go.

Meeting Ma Taffy ( blind, but can see everything), and her grandson, Kaia ( whose dreadlocks were chopped off by his teacher), come alive.

We feel the deep rooted spirituality of Jamaica and Rast
Mar 07, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars.

The longer I reflect on this book, the more nuanced my thoughts become. Kei Miller can write his ass off! No question. His prose throughout this novel was simply jaw dropping, but there were some instances where this writing style got in the way of the story. And although the story unfolded brilliantly, in retrospect, the novel's plot is part basic, part impressive and part disjointed.

Regardless, this is an absolutely gorgeous novel that explores so much, including class issues, fable
Chaplain Walle
Dec 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
I will give a full review at a later date.
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This gorgeously written, poetic and heart-shattering novel circles around a pivotal event in the school day of a young boy, Kaia. As the stories unfold, more and more is revealed about the lives of the people in Augustown, a ghetto in Kingston, Jamaica.

"To know a man properly, you must know the shape of his hurt --the specific wound around which his person has been formed like a scab." Kei Miller brilliantly succeeds with this novel.
Nov 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mythological
“To know a man properly, you must know the shape of his hurt—the specific wound around which his person has been formed like a scab.”

I am mesmerized by Kei Miller’s unique poetic voice. There’s a soft ring to it, a gentle clarity.

Augustown has a timeless quality, as if it wasn’t so much written as revealed. And after reading it, I feel like a child feels after a magical fairy tale: aware of a whole new world.

Jamaica is a place I’ve never been, an exotic locale to me. But Miller did something spe
Aug 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
The writing in this book will leave you breathless. Just exquisite prose. I just turned the last page and I immediately started reading the beginning of the book again. I wanted to both go over some scenes in this book that I was little confused or maybe befuddled about, but also revisit the lyrical prose. This book reminded me a little of The Fishermen by Obioma; Claire of the Sea Light by Danticat; and some others. One critic compared the writing to Garcia Márquez, whom I've never read, but ce ...more
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Call it what you will – “history”, or just another “old-time story” – there really was a time in Jamaica, 1920 to be precise when a great thing was about to happen but did not happen. Though people across the length and breadth of the island believed it was going to happen, though they desperately needed it to happen, it did not. But the story as it is recorded and as it is whispered today is only one version. It is the story as told …. by journalist, by governors, by people who sat on wide v
Aug 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-2018, jamaica
Utterly magnificent.


August Town, in the hills of St Andrew, Jamaica is thought to have been named from the fact that freedom came to the enslaved people of this country on 'August Mawnin' - the 1st August, 1838. August Town later became notable because at this place a prophet, whose name was Bedward, arose. He had thousands of followers, but outdid himself when he proclaimed that he was God and could fly.

From The Dictionary of Place-Names in Jamaica.

Stories bounce against each other lik
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
Everyone and their dog among my bookish friends loved this. I am confused that it left me almost completely cold. I could appreciate the writing, the structure, the importance of all that intergenerational storytelling. But I didn’t ever get pulled in.
Augustown is essentially a collection of the oral and written stories that define a Jamaican community. That structure is both a positive and a negative: While it introduces a diversity of voices and allows for the interweaving of bits of history and etymology, it can also make the book seem more like a set of disparate tales than a connected story line, even though Miller keeps circling back to April 11, 1982. It definitely requires a suspension of disbelief to appreciate what Miller is doing h ...more
Missy J
The third time I read a work by Kei Miller (after the original and emotional The Last Warner Woman and the poetry collection The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion)! I can see that Kei Miller is forging his own literary path. In other words, he has his own writing style and I like that!

Essentially, I think "Augustown" is about the "gap" in Jamaican society - be it upper vs. lower class, white vs. black, educated vs. uneducated, Babylon vs. Rasta. Augustown is a poor part of town where the b
Never Without a Book
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Now Focus 17 59' 0' North, 76 44' 0' West. Down there is the Caribbean, down there is Augustown, it sits between two hillsides."

Kei Miller gives us a narrative spanning from 1920's to 1980's. We are introduced to Spliff-smoking granny, Ma Taffy, who was blinded by rats and now has her senses tuned to coming catastrophes (which Jamaicans call “autoclaps”); rude-boy gangster “Soft-Paw”, a self-proclaimed defender of this ghetto community and Gina, the bright school “gyal” who must fend off the un
Eric Anderson
Sep 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In his novel “Augustown” Kei Miller asks us to question the assumptions we make about people. Central to this book is the story of an over-zealous teacher who cuts off a boy’s dreadlocks in his classroom. This is in a poor neighbourhood school in the fictional city of Augustown in Jamaica and this incident sparks off a dramatic event that gets the whole town marching. Built around this story are stories characters tell each other. These tales span back many years and involve a range of dynamic a ...more
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
So, so good -- powerful, fascinating and ultimately heartbreaking story of Jamaica in the 20th century, with brilliant storytelling and language. Also a wonderful audio book thanks to Miller's exceptional writing matched with Dona Croll's narration, although unless your ear is used to Jamaican vernacular and accents, you might want to do what I did and listen to the first half hour or so twice before going through the entire book. ...more
May 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
Augustown by Kei Miller is one of my favorite reads so far this year. It’s a wonderful piece of writing set in Jamaica. The author has created memorable characters. He offers stories within stories as done in oral tradition. There’s a lightness in the way he writes but the book has great depth.

I’m offering this article from the Guardian in lieu of a review.


Jun 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This was my first Kei Miller book and I have been missing out!

The descriptions, the history, the characters all in a short book-fantastic!

Augustown is a story of classism, folklore, family, Rastafarianism, and how a community grapples with injustice.

This is a must read and though I’m late. I’m glad I picked it up!
Jul 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Simply put, this was a really good story, told in a really good way.
Thoughts coming shortly
One of my fav read this year
May 13, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don’t think I’ve ever read a book set in Jamaica before and I’ve never been there so I appreciate how richly the setting is evoked. I also admired the poetic language and deep human truths I found in this heartbreaking tale. However, the characters and story just never quite grabbed my heart. I should have liked this more than I did.
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A top read for this year. I remain in afterglow a month after finishing this book.

The story, the feel of the book, and the gorgeous writing swept me into another world. There are so many layers of meaning, of revealing. I greatly admire poets who write novels because those books then become infused with poetry; it almost seems inevitable.

I relish the beautiful language here. And there's poetry in the created atmosphere as well. The pacing and the lived world all have that quality.

Several favori
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Pleasantview
  • How to Love a Jamaican
  • Daylight Come
  • Here Comes the Sun
  • The Bread the Devil Knead
  • The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives
  • The Star Side of Bird Hill
  • A Million Aunties
  • Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun
  • The Girl with the Hazel Eyes
  • Butter Honey Pig Bread
  • What Storm, What Thunder
  • How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House
  • Saga Boy: My Life of Blackness and Becoming
  • Love After Love
  • Frying Plantain
  • Crossing the Mangrove
  • Cereus Blooms at Night
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Kei Miller was born in Jamaica in 1978. He completed an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University and a PhD in English literature at the University of Glasgow. He works in multiple genres - poetry, fiction and non-fiction and has won major prizes across these genres. He won the Forward Prize for poetry and the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature. He has taught at the Univer ...more

News & Interviews

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
33 likes · 3 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“To know a man properly, you must know the shape of his hurt - the specific wound around which his person has been formed like a scab.” 14 likes
“Whenever he cried, his grandmother would always tell him, You need a backbone, boy. She thought this was the way to raise a man-child without quite understanding that sometimes it takes backbone to cry the long length of tears required.” 8 likes
More quotes…