2008 Essence Literary Award Best Fiction
Synopses & Reviews
In 1946, a storm-wrecked boat carrying Hollywood's most famous swashbuckler arrived dramatically and accidentally in Jamaica, and the glamorous world of 1940s Hollywood converged with that of a small West Indian society. After a long and storied career on the silver screen, Errol Flynn spent much of the last years of his life on a small island off of Jamaica, throwing parties and sleeping with increasingly younger girls. Based on those years, The Pirate's Daughter
is the story of Ida, a local girl who has an affair with Flynn that produces a daughter, May, who meets her father but once.
Spanning two gererations of women whose destinies become inextricably linked with the Holly wood star, The Pirate's Daughter tells the provocative history of a vanished era, of uncommon kinships, compelling attachments, betrayal, and atonement in a paradisal, tropical setting. May, the illegitimate daughter of Errol Flynn, belongs neither to the emerging black nation of Jamaica nor to the white, expatriate society on the island. Her mother, Ida, romantically adventurous, dreams of a bigger more glamorous world than that of her small seaside town. For them both, trying to find the right way to live their lives is about discovering who they are and where they truly belong.
As adept with Jamaican vernacular as she is at revealing the internal machinations of a fading and bloated matinee idol, in this culturally sensitive and delightful novel, Margaret Cezair-Thompson weaves a saga of a mother and daughter finding their way in a nation struggling to rise to the challenge of independence.
"Cezair-Thompson conjures the tragic glamour of golden age Hollywood against the backdrop of lusty, turbulent Jamaica in her dual generational coming-of-age saga. Ida Joseph is 13 years old when Errol Flynn is nearly shipwrecked off the coast of her hometown of Port Antonio in 1946. Flynn instantly loves Jamaica and, eager to find a refuge from stateside scandal, purchases an island across from the port. Navy Island becomes the setting for his glittering parties, movie projects and affair with Ida in her senior year of high school. Flynn refuses to take responsibility for the resulting child, May, and after trying to make a go of it in Jamaica, Ida leaves May and heads to New York City, where she marries a wealthy baron friend of Flynn's who purchases the island after Flynn dies. May grows to adulthood on Navy Island, develops something more than a crush on a married family friend 40 years her senior and indulges in drugs and free love. Jamaica's tumultuous progression toward self-governance with the violent chaos it unleashes on Navy Island reveals certain hidden truths about the baron. For all the high drama, the reader never feels fully privy to Ida or May, but Cezair-Thompson otherwise succeeds magnificently in evoking a world distant in both time and place." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Cezair-Thompson deftly walks the high wire between literary and pop fiction, melding romance and politics in this novel that reimagines Errol Flynn's sojourn in Jamaica near the end of his career." Chauncey Mabe, the National Book Critics Circle's Most Recommended list, winter 2008
"Cezair-Thompson mixes Jamaican history with 1950s glamour to tell the story of two young women of mixed race trying to find their place in a rapidly changing country....The Pirate's Daughter provides the kind of full-bodied yarn ideal for readers looking to be swept away." The Christian Science Monitor
"[C]onjures the collision of old Hollywood glamour and freshly minted West Indian society....[A]n unabashedly frangipani-scented-and wholly satisfying armchair holiday of a read." Vogue
"[A] lush, lovely fairy tale filled with obvious love for the characters, history, and place, rendered in faultless prose and patois. The feel of this novel is of Gone with the Wind in Jamaica...full to the bursting with romantic adventure and epic scope." School Library Journal
"The sensual descriptions, engaging dialect and captivating characters make The Pirate's Daughter a book that will stay with me. It is an elegantly written saga of love and loss, betrayal and survival, but most of all it is a glimpse at the fragile nature of the human heart." BookReporter.com
"The Pirate's Daughter is the best kind of middle-brow fiction, neither pandering nor elitist, and not least of its charms is the desire to visit Jamaica that it will inspire in many of its readers." South Florida Sun-Sentinel
"[Cezair-Thompson is] best at juxtaposing Flynn's imported glamour with the realities of Jamaica and at suggesting there's more than one kind of buried treasure....The Pirate's Daughter offers plenty of serious passion and escape." USA Today
After a long and storied career on the silver screen, Errol Flynn spends much of the last years of his life on a small island off of Jamaica. Based on those years, this novel tells the story a local girl whose affair with Flynn produces a daughter, as it delves into the provocative history of a vanished era.
About the Author
Margaret Cezair-Thompson is the author of a widely acclaimed previous novel The True History of Paradise. Born in Jamaica, West Indies, she teaches literature and creative writing at Wellesley College.