three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
32-Jan-Feb-2008
user_rating: 
0

A-The Pirates DaughterIn 1946, the charming Hollywood actor Errol Flynn capsized on the Jamaican coast. Finding refuge from a sex scandal, he purchased Navy Island and constructed a large villa for his decadent parties. Margaret Cezair-Thompson weaves together fictional characters and events to reimagine Flynn's womanizing, his profligate ways, and his influence on future generations. She starts with teenaged Ida Joseph, a beautiful, light-skinned Jamaican whom Flynn seduces. Ida becomes pregnant with their daughter May, and when Flynn refuses to acknowledge his paternity, Ida finds work in New York City and carves out a new identity. May, left behind, comes of age in a vanishing paradise-a Jamaica marred by its search for independence, political turmoil, and racial violence.
Unbridled Books. 394 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 1932961402

USA Today 4 of 5 Stars
"She's 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." Bob Minzesheimer

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Cezair-Thompson . . . brings a smart, lilting voice and a sharp, quirky perspective to a tried-and-true literary formula, the sweeping historical epic. ... Beyond the Hollywood stardust that floats over the proceedings, it is Cezair-Thompson's deft evocation of the beauty and unpredictability of Jamaica, its topography and its people, that raises The Pirate's Daughter to a level far above the bodice-ripping historic epic." Amy Alexander

Dallas Morning News 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The Pirate's Daughter captures perfectly the essence of Jamaica, from the lilting patois spoken by its people to the lush beauty of its mountains and coves. ... If you look too closely, this novel has minor difficulties. But if you read it in a rush, enjoying the glamour, your efforts will be rewarded with rich escape." Anne Morris

South FL Sun-Sentinel 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Near the end, the book turns a bit melodramatic, with the sudden intrusion of violence and murder, and the revelation of a family secret better suited to a potboiler. ... For the most part, 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." Chauncey Mabe

NY Times Book Review 2 of 5 Stars
"This soap-operatic portrayal of Jamaican women falls far short of Cezair-Thompson's goal. If indeed this is a tale about women scorned and, by extension, about a people scorned-unheard by history-then one might wish for those women to be of greater substance." Kaiama L. Glover

Critical Summary

Jamaica-born Margaret Cezair-Thompson, a creative writing instructor at Wellesley College and author of The True History of Paradise, knows her native island's physical, political, and social landscape well. Her historical epic, which spans the years between the end of World War II and the 1970s, sets a mother's and a daughter's coming-of-age stories against this lush country's tensions of race and class. While most critics thought that both imagined and real characters (think Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe) sparkled, a couple accused the author of portraying self-absorbed, uninteresting stereotypes of Jamaicans; others cited a few too many plot coincidences. Nevertheless-especially in May's Treasure Cove, a book within a book-Jamaica comes alive in all its tropical splendor.