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Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat
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Claire of the Sea Light (2013)

by Edwidge Danticat

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Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
Claire of the Sea Light I do love the way Edwidge Danticat writes. This book is full of lovely passages but never feels overwritten. You never get the idea that Danticat is trying too hard; this is just the way she expresses herself. The book feels effortless, and yet it's hard to find a page without a memorable, evocative paragraph.
 
For example:
 

It was so hot in Ville Rose that year that dozens of frogs exploded. These frogs frightened not just the children who chased them into the rivers and creeks at dusk, or the parents who hastily pried the slimy carcasses from their young ones' fingers, but also twenty-five-year-old Gaelle, who was more than six months pregnant and feared that, should the temperature continue to rise, she too might burst. The frogs had been dying for a few weeks, but Gaelle hadn't noticed at first. They'd been dying so quietly that for each one that had expired, another had taken its place along the gulch near her house, each one looking exactly the same and fooling her, among others, into thinking that a normal cycle was occurring, that young was replacing old, and life replacing death, sometimes slowly and sometimes quickly. Just as it was for everything else.

 
(I defy you to find a more elegant paragraph about exploding frogs.)
 
And yet, much like Colum McCann's Transatlantic, all of the gorgeous words don't seem to add up to much. Danticat does a wonderful job of creating her setting--Ville Rose, a small village in Haiti--but she doesn't seem to do a lot with it. Claire of the Sea Light is less a novel than a series of connected short stories, so we meet many of Ville Rose's inhabitants. But most of the characters, with the exception of Nozias, lack depth.
 
The book's milieu is intriguing, but the themes are slight. And--again like Transatlantic--the stories don't come together at the end in a satisfying way. I don't need everything to wrap up neatly--that would be far too artificial--but I do want to feel at the end that every character's story was vital to the larger themes of the book. And I didn't get that here. Instead, as I finished the last page, I just felt wistful for the book this could have been if Danticat had plumbed the depths of her characters and their village just a bit more. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
25. Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat
reader: Robin Miles
published: 2013
format: 7:04 Overdrive audio (~196 pages, 238 pages in hardcover)
acquired: Library
listened: Apr 30 – May 9
rating: 4

An audio I stumbled across, as it was available, this was also my first time reading Danticat and my first time getting a look at Haiti, and I liked both, although Danticat may not be ideal on audio.

[Claire of the Sea Light] is the translation from Creole French of one character's name who shows up in the beginning and then isn't heard from again for a long time. The novel is actually a series of connected short stories that overlap in story line and, for most, tie into the same moment. They give a multifaceted view of a small seaside Haitian town marked by poverty, serious gang violence and a small middle class. The tensions tie in a number of ways, but the writing in third person keeps the reader at a bit of distance. It pulled me in here and there, and was subtle enough that I had to re-listen a lot and finally acknowledge that there is only so much I would get out of this while driving. (Not the fault of the reader. Robin Miles is terrific.) A good experience and I hope to read more of her novels. ( )
  dchaikin | May 21, 2018 |
Claire of the Sea Light I do love the way Edwidge Danticat writes. This book is full of lovely passages but never feels overwritten. You never get the idea that Danticat is trying too hard; this is just the way she expresses herself. The book feels effortless, and yet it's hard to find a page without a memorable, evocative paragraph.
 
For example:
 

It was so hot in Ville Rose that year that dozens of frogs exploded. These frogs frightened not just the children who chased them into the rivers and creeks at dusk, or the parents who hastily pried the slimy carcasses from their young ones' fingers, but also twenty-five-year-old Gaelle, who was more than six months pregnant and feared that, should the temperature continue to rise, she too might burst. The frogs had been dying for a few weeks, but Gaelle hadn't noticed at first. They'd been dying so quietly that for each one that had expired, another had taken its place along the gulch near her house, each one looking exactly the same and fooling her, among others, into thinking that a normal cycle was occurring, that young was replacing old, and life replacing death, sometimes slowly and sometimes quickly. Just as it was for everything else.

 
(I defy you to find a more elegant paragraph about exploding frogs.)
 
And yet, much like Colum McCann's Transatlantic, all of the gorgeous words don't seem to add up to much. Danticat does a wonderful job of creating her setting--Ville Rose, a small village in Haiti--but she doesn't seem to do a lot with it. Claire of the Sea Light is less a novel than a series of connected short stories, so we meet many of Ville Rose's inhabitants. But most of the characters, with the exception of Nozias, lack depth.
 
The book's milieu is intriguing, but the themes are slight. And--again like Transatlantic--the stories don't come together at the end in a satisfying way. I don't need everything to wrap up neatly--that would be far too artificial--but I do want to feel at the end that every character's story was vital to the larger themes of the book. And I didn't get that here. Instead, as I finished the last page, I just felt wistful for the book this could have been if Danticat had plumbed the depths of her characters and their village just a bit more. ( )
  gayla.bassham | Nov 7, 2016 |
Set in a small coastal fishing village in Haiti, it is the story of Claire and her father and their life after Claire’s mother dies in childbirth. Many of the people of Ville Rose are close to Claire and her father, and their stories are woven together in Danticat’s beautiful prose. ( )
  St.CroixSue | Oct 5, 2016 |
Edwidge Danticat's novel relates the interconnected stories off a small coastal town, Ville Rose, outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The narrative begins and ends on the same day, the day a local fisherman went missing after his small boat is smashed by a rouge wave. Nozias Faustin was on the beach that morning and saw his friend Caleb out fishing. He watched a "wall of water rise from the depths of the ocean, a giant blue-green tongue, trying, it seemed, to lick a pink sky." This is the same day that Gaelle Lavaud finally decides to accept Nozias Faustin's proposal that she raise his daughter so that he can go find a better life. His daughter Claire whose mother died giving birth to her is now seven and runs away upon hearing of the arrangement. --Don't worry, folks, no spoilers, that's just the first few pages. Through proceeding flashbacks we get the back story of this scene, as well as a portrait of the present day Haitian culture, its heartache, its loss of natural resources, and its violence.
This is the third book of I have read of Edwidge Danticat's work. I love her easily read, colorful prose; her descriptions of this town and its people are part magical realism,( one character bleeds from her mouth during her menstrual cycle ) and part non-fiction. Historical elements like the collapse of a school and the custom of having your children become a restavèk give the novel weight. There are a few other of Danticat's works out there that I have not read, but I will be sure to get to them. ( )
  novelcommentary | Sep 16, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
 

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Edwidge Danticatprimary authorall editionscalculated
Miles, RobinNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Tell me, dear beauty of the dusk,

When purple ribbons bind the hill,

Do dreams your secret wish fulfill,

Do prayers, like kernals from the husk

Come from your lips? Tell me if when

The mountains loom at night, giant shades

Of softer shadow, swift like blades

Of grass seeds come to flower. Then

Tell me if the night winds bend

Them towards me . . .


Jean Toomer, "Tell Me"
Dedication
for my mother, Rose,

and my daughters, Mira and Leila
First words
The morning Claire Limye Lanme Faustin turned seven, a freak wave, measuring between ten and twelve feet high, was in in the ocean ouside of Ville Rose.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
I think that the descriptions are a little misleading. The book is not so much a novel as a collection of interrelated short stories (earlier published separately) with the search for Claire Limyè Lanmè split into the beginning and end.

Claire's mother died at her birth. After being raised by her mother's family for three years, she returns to her father, a fisherman, in Ville Rose, Haiti. Wanting the best for his daughter, he has been trying to place her with Madame Gaëlle, a widowed shop owner whose own daughter was killed in an accident. On Claire Limyè Lanmè's seventh birthday, Mme. Gaëlle agrees to take her, precipitating Claire's flight. There follows a series of short stories about other people in Ville Rose, then the action returns to Claire's seventh birthday and her return.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 030727179X, Hardcover)

From the best-selling author of Breath, Eyes, Memory and Krik? Krak!, a stunning new work of fiction that brings us deep into the intertwined lives of a small town where a little girl, the daughter of a fisherman, has gone missing.

Claire Limyè Lanmè--Claire of the Sea Light--is an enchanting child born into love and tragedy in a seaside town in Haiti. Claire's mother died in childbirth, and on each of her birthdays Claire is taken by her father, Nozias, to visit her mother's grave. Nozias wonders if he should give away his young daughter to a local shopkeeper who lost a child of her own, so he can give her a better life. But on the night of Claire's seventh birthday, when he makes the wrenching decision to do so, she disappears. As Nozias and others look for her, painful secrets and startling truths are unearthed among a host of men and women whose stories connect to Claire, her parents, and the town itself. Told with the piercing lyricism and economy of a fable, Claire of the Sea Light explores what it means to be a parent, child, neighbor, lover, and friend, while indelibly revealing the mysterious connections we share with the natural world and with one another, amid the magic and heartbreak of ordinary life. 

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:59 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"The interconnected secrets of a coastal Haitian town are revealed when one little girl, the daughter of a fisherman, goes missing"--

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