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Annie John (1985)

by Jamaica Kincaid

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,2902910,984 (3.55)101
Annie John 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, Kincaid's novel focuses on a universal, tragic, and often comic theme: the loss of childhood. Annie's 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 girl's existence. Loved and cherished, Annie grows and thrives within her mother's benign shadow. Looking back on her childhood, she reflects, "It was in such a paradise that I lived." When she turns twelve, however, Annie's 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."… (more)
  1. 20
    Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga (betterthanchocolate)
    betterthanchocolate: If you liked Annie John's (acerbic) post-colonial resistance, you might also appreciate Nyasha's.
  2. 20
    Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Anonymous user)
  3. 10
    Crick Crack, Monkey by Merle Hodge (betterthanchocolate)
    betterthanchocolate: An island girlhood.
  4. 10
    Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Kincaid and Hurston have each set their moving, character-driven novels in atmospheric, sunny settings -- the Caribbean, and Florida respectively. Both novels explore haunting truths about identity, society, friendship and love as an African-American female protagonist gains new self-awareness and respect for her experiences.… (more)
  5. 00
    The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (bookworm12)
  6. 00
    The Meaning of Consuelo: A Novel (Bluestreak) by Judith Ortiz Cofer (bookworm12)
  7. 00
    The Painted Canoe (Anthony C. Winkler Collection) by Anthony C. Winkler (betterthanchocolate)
    betterthanchocolate: Appealing reads in Caribbean fiction.
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» See also 101 mentions

English (28)  Swedish (1)  All languages (29)
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
Annie John is a novel about a young girl growing to become a young woman. The story includes the deterioration of her relationship with her mother, her love for another girl named Gwen, and Annie John's depression. Colonization weighs over the story in the conflict between traditional ways and English culture. I don't know if this novel is autobiographical, but Kincaid writes with a sense of lived experience while also being timeless. ( )
1 vote Othemts | Jun 17, 2021 |
Truly beautiful and so important. While I continue to think that Lucy is Jamaica Kincaid's masterwork, I loved Annie John as well. Annie John is of course her famous contribution to postcolonialism and the project of Caribbean literature. It is a coming of age story for a woman and for a cultural identity, buried in the story of a heartwrenching tale of generational shifts between mothers and daughters. Worth reading for everyone. ( )
  sparemethecensor | Feb 2, 2021 |
6/2021. This is well written and the descriptions are interesting enough to be a 4* read, but unfortunately I didn't find the protagonist personally engaging.

When describing language, the author doesn't distinguish between the familiarity of Leeward Islands Creole and Standard English but she does mark out the protagonist's mother's "French patois" from Dominica. Both Jamaica Kincaid's non-fiction Talk Stories, which I read recently, and Annie John anticipate and revel in the potential anonymity of big city life compared to individual visibility on a small island. And in Annie John the surrounding sea is ever present. But I'll let the following quotes speak for the book.

Quotes

Swimming, or not: "My mother was a superior swimmer. When she plunged into the seawater, it was as if she had always lived there. She would go far out if it was safe to do so, and she could tell just by looking at the way the waves beat if it was safe to do so. She could tell if a shark was nearby, and she had never been stung by a jellyfish. I, on the other hand, could not swim at all. In fact, if I was in water up to my knees I was sure that I was drowning. My mother had tried everything to get me swimming, from using a coaxing method to just throwing me without a word into the water. Nothing worked. The only way I could go into the water was if I was on my mother’s back, my arms clasped tightly around her neck, and she would then swim around not too far from the shore. It was only then that I could forget how big the sea was, how far down the bottom could be, and how filled up it was with things that couldn’t understand a nice hallo. When we swam around in this way, I would think how much we were like the pictures of sea mammals I had seen, my mother and I, naked in the seawater, my mother sometimes singing to me a song in a French patois I did not yet understand, or sometimes not saying anything at all. I would place my ear against her neck, and it was as if I were listening to a giant shell, for all the sounds around me - the sea, the wind, the birds screeching - would seem as if they came from inside her, the way the sounds of the sea are in a seashell. Afterward, my mother would take me back to the shore, and I would lie there just beyond the farthest reach of a big wave and watch my mother as she swam and dove."

Abandoned lighthouse as panopticon: "The Red Girl and I walked to the top of the hill behind my house. At the top of the hill was an old lighthouse. It must have been a useful lighthouse at one time, but now it was just there for mothers to say to their children, “Don’t play at the lighthouse,” my own mother leading the chorus, I am sure. Whenever I did go to the lighthouse behind my mother’s back, I would have to gather up all my courage to go to the top, the height made me so dizzy. But now I marched boldly up behind the Red Girl as if at the top were my own room, with all my familiar comforts waiting for me. At the top, we stood on the balcony and looked out toward the sea. We could see some boats coming and going; we could see some children our own age coming home from games; we could see some sheep being driven home from pasture; we could see my father coming home from work." ( )
  spiralsheep | Jan 3, 2021 |
bleh bluh blah blah. this was barely worth a skim. ( )
  reg_lt | Feb 7, 2020 |
A slender, beautifully written, sense-tingling and heart-tugging portrait of a girl whose idyllic childhood transforms into an adolescence of pain and alienation as her relationship to her mother inexplicably alters. Very readable, very sad. ( )
1 vote thesmellofbooks | Dec 6, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
"Annie John is a narrowly focused and intense portrayal of the inner life of an adolescent girl growing up in Antigua in the 1950s and 1960s. It begins in paradise. Annie is 10 years old. She lives an orderly and affection-filled existence with her mother and father in a small house he has built, which her mother keeps perfectly in order. Annie adores her mother and loves being in her presence, helping her with her daily tasks, dressing like her, being made to feel cherished and protected by her mother's knowledge and special rigour. The next nine chapters detail Annie's simultaneous disillusionment and quest for independence as she becomes "a young lady" (a very suspect category), a star student in a rigidly British educational system, and her mother's loved and hated antagonist."
added by Dhud707 | editThe Guardian, Jane Smiley (Jul 1, 2006)
 
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For Allen, with love
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For a short while during the year I was ten, I thought only people I did not know died.
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My mother was a superior swimmer. When she plunged into the seawater, it was as if she had always lived there. She would go far out if it was safe to do so, and she could tell just by looking at the way the waves beat if it was safe to do so. She could tell if a shark was nearby, and she had never been stung by a jellyfish. I, on the other hand, could not swim at all. In fact, if I was in water up to my knees I was sure that I was drowning. My mother had tried everything to get me swimming, from using a coaxing method to just throwing me without a word into the water. Nothing worked. The only way I could go into the water was if I was on my mother’s back, my arms clasped tightly around her neck, and she would then swim around not too far from the shore. It was only then that I could forget how big the sea was, how far down the bottom could be, and how filled up it was with things that couldn’t understand a nice hallo. When we swam around in this way, I would think how much we were like the pictures of sea mammals I had seen, my mother and I, naked in the seawater, my mother sometimes singing to me a song in a French patois I did not yet understand, or sometimes not saying anything at all. I would place my ear against her neck, and it was as if I were listening to a giant shell, for all the sounds around me - the sea, the wind, the birds screeching - would seem as if they came from inside her, the way the sounds of the sea are in a seashell. Afterward, my mother would take me back to the shore, and I would lie there just beyond the farthest reach of a big wave and watch my mother as she swam and dove.
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Annie John 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, Kincaid's novel focuses on a universal, tragic, and often comic theme: the loss of childhood. Annie's 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 girl's existence. Loved and cherished, Annie grows and thrives within her mother's benign shadow. Looking back on her childhood, she reflects, "It was in such a paradise that I lived." When she turns twelve, however, Annie's 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."

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