Published in 1985, Annie John is Jamaica Kincaid's powerful first novel. It tells the story of a young girl, growing up in Antigua, whose relationship with her mother turns increasingly acrimonious. Annie John is told in short chapters, each a complete vignette first published in the New Yorker. It's at least somewhat autobiographical — as a young girl, Kincaid was very close to her mother, but after her brothers were born, their relationship became more antagonistic. Kincaid gives us a keen emotional topography of the mother-daughter relationship and carefully nuanced descriptions of both interior and exterior worlds. Recommended By Mary Jo S., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
is a haunting and provocative story of a young girl growing up on the island of Antigua. A classic coming-of-age story in the tradition of The Catcher in the Rye
and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,
Kincaids novel focuses on a universal, tragic, and often comic theme: the loss of childhood. Annies voice—urgent, demanding to be heard—is one that will not soon be forgotten by readers.
An adored only child, Annie has until recently lived an idyllic life. She is inseparable from her beautiful mother, a powerful presence, who is the very center of the little girls existence. Loved and cherished, Annie grows and thrives within her mothers benign shadow. Looking back on her childhood, she reflects, “It was in such a paradise that I lived.” When she turns twelve, however, Annies life changes, in ways that are often mysterious to her. She begins to question the cultural assumptions of her island world; at school she instinctively rebels against authority; and most frighteningly, her mother, seeing Annie as a “young lady,” ceases to be the source of unconditional adoration and takes on the new and unfamiliar guise of adversary. At the end of her school years, Annie decides to leave Antigua and her family, but not without a measure of sorrow, especially for the mother she once knew and never ceases to mourn. “For I could not be sure,” she reflects, “whether for the rest of my life I would be able to tell when it was really my mother and when it was really her shadow standing between me and the rest of the world."
"So neon-bright that the traditional story of a young girl's passage into adolescence takes on a shimmering strangeness." Elaine Kendall, The Los Angeles Times
"Following the author's first collection, At the Bottom of the River (1983), Jamaica Kincaid continues her fascinating account of the struggle from girlhood to adolescence in Antigua, West Indies, where she grew up. These are wonderful stories, told with a disarming simplicity and sharp, clear images. She conveys the atmosphere of the Caribbean islands with colorful, haunting details. In the stories, all of which originally appeared in The New Yorker, we relive the experiences familiar to many of us: the joy of having a secret friend, the terror of a teacher telling parents about misdeeds at school, seeing a dead person for the first time, glimpses of sexuality, winning admiration for an essay. Ms. Kincaid portrays the unique intensity of the mother-daughter relationship as few have ever done, and she has preserved the child's-eye view intact, capturing all the rebelliousness and ambivalence of feelings toward parents, friends, puberty, and leaving home. Poignant, sensual, exotic, these narratives linger in the mind. At the end of the book, when Annie finally boards ship for nursing school in England, the reader can only hope there is more of this marvelous writing forthcoming." Reviewed by Daniel Weiss, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
"So touching and familiar it could be happening to any of us...and that's exactly the book's strength, its wisdom, its truth." The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Jamaica Kincaid's books include At the Bottom of the River, Annie John, A Small Place, Lucy, The Autobiography of My Mother, My Brother, and, most recently, Mr. Potter. She lives in Vermont.