Here Comes The Sun by Nicole Dennis – Benn Discussion/ Review

So as you may know from my previous post I read 2 books by Jamaican authors this month to celebrate Jamaica’s 54th Independence which was on August 6th.

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I came across ‘Here Comes The Sun’ when looking for reviews on Augustown by Kei Miller (Which is the second book I read this month). I found an article showcasing new releases from writers from all over the Caribbean.  From there I placed ‘Here Comes the Sun’ on my Amazon wishlist and my lovely boyfriend bought it for me as a mid-summer present 😀

Author Background:

Nicole Dennis-Benn was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. She is a graduate of Cornell University and has an MPH from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. She is the Founder and Director of Stuyvesant Writing Workshop and currently teaches Writing for the City University of New York. She lives with her wife in Brooklyn, NY.

Synopsis:

Capturing the distinct rhythms of Jamaican life and dialect, Nicole Dennis- Benn pens a tender hymn to a world hidden among pristine beaches and the wide expanse of turquoise seas. At an opulent resort in Montego Bay, Margot hustles to send her younger sister, Thandi, to school. Taught as a girl to trade her sexuality for survival, Margot is ruthlessly determined to shield Thandi from the same fate. When plans for a new hotel threaten their village, Margot sees not only an opportunity for her own financial independence but also perhaps a chance to admit a shocking secret: her forbidden love for another woman. As they face the impending destruction of their community, each woman—fighting to balance the burdens she shoulders with the freedom she craves—must confront long-hidden scars. From a much-heralded new writer, Here Comes the Sun offers a dramatic glimpse into a vibrant, passionate world most outsiders see simply as paradise

 

My thoughts / discussion with myself (LOL)

So. Where do I start? I’ll start with how I felt overall with this book. I really liked it. Lol love is a strong word for me so I’ll just say I really  really liked it! 😀 The novel is about 3 women living in a very male dominated society. Let’s just say I was heavily invested in the characters …

Firstly Delores. I thought Delores was a very bitter, jealous and twisted woman. The cruel things she allows her children to endure is a reflection on her own lack of education, unfortunate past experiences,  poor moral, low self-esteem and unfortunately the desperation resulting from poverty. I wouldn’t say she was innately  an evil witch just a very ignorant weak mother who exploited her children to make ends meet.

Margot seems to have inherited her ruthlessness and poor moral from her mother and the unfortunate abuse she experienced growing up. She uses this to justify her actions but it just doesn’t quite cut it. Thandi is who I sympathise with the most, everyone is working hard to support her but all that pressure in such a hostile environment is bound to create anxiety, confusion and rebellion. She has a tonne of  pressure placed upon her from her family and high expectations from the community to make it through school and become a doctor or some sort of highflyer. Although her family are there and care for her, noone sits down and speaks to her to find out how she is feeling but instead throw money at her for her school fees and books and time to study but where they are lacking is the social support.

I feel this story was very relatable. Being from the Caribbean myself I’ve seen people throw money at school fees and ignore wellbeing then become surprised when the person has completely gone off the rails. Thandi was told to completely ignore her sexuality,  emotions and interests to concentrate on school. She was silenced when she wanted to discuss her  chosen career path …. instead of having a serious conversation and guidance regarding feasible options. We weren’t told how well Thandi done in her exams but it was painful for me to read regardless of how well she does.

Margot’s relationship with Verdene – I didn’t like so much. I would’ve preferred if the origins of their romantic relationship  was explored a little more because it was just a little odd that Verdene went from a big-sister figure  to a partner.Like how did that happen? The sneaking around, and the sadness between the two just made it seem more hassle than it was worth. I felt that they both had soooo many personal issues they needed to work on, it wasn’t a very honest relationship – it just distracted them from addressing these issues.  But then again their secretive and limited relationship was  mainly due to strong homophobia which stifled their relationship. Jamaica has a long way to go with LGBT Rights.

Colorism was a very big theme throughout the book. Wow. Honestly I did not realise colorism was such a big thing in some communities. In places like the UK and USA in everyday life colorism doesn’t really play a huge part in main society (unless you’re on the big screen or experience it from family / friends). Here, within mainstream society MOST of the time once you’re black you’re black, and instead of colorism it’s just straight up racism. But in a many postcolonial  countries it’s broken down further to  meet this societal need to maintain  some sort of superficial social hierarchy.  Almost like some kind of caste system based purely on your skintone…  I’ve been teased by others for having dark skin, told that because I am dark I am therefore unattractive. Even after the teasing I did not wish to lighten my skin. For the first time in my life through the three women I understood why someone would want to bleach/ lighten their skin. Skintone appeared to affect everything from job opportunities, to friends and love interests and seemed like a way out of the poverty cycle.

I felt Here Comes The sun is a very true reflection of what is / has been happening in some postcolonial communities.  Maybe not to the same extent  for most people, but issues around education, sexism, homophobia, colorism, class and poverty is a norm for many people.

I really appreciated this book because it’s not often I read a fairly contemporary book set in Jamaica. Although books written by Black authors  set in the America / Africa/ UK are numerous, the experiences and everyday struggles are still very different.  It was great to read a book I can identify a little more with and give me an insight into some of the present day struggles faced in a place I no longer know very well .

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Have you read Here Comes The Sun? What are your thoughts? I would  absolutely love to know!

Goodreads

 

Where to find me 🙂

Email: bookcrumble@gmail.com

Instagram: @bookcrumble

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Reading to celebrate Jamaica’s 54th Independence! // Jamaican Book Haul

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So as usual, as much as I wanted to …. I did not celebrate Independence Day on 6th August. I live in London and most of the events for Independence day are mainly  nightclub type events :/ … no thank you, (I’m not really into the nightclub scene unless it’s a dirty Drum and Bass/ electro night).

But as I’ve recently started a Booktube channel I thought it would be great fun to have a Jamaican themed month especially as there has been a few new releases by Jamaican authors. I may even have a tropical cocktail whilst filming 😀

This month I picked up Marlon Jame’s – ‘John Crow’s Devil’. Kei Miller’s ‘ The Same Earth’ Kei Miller- ‘Augustown’,  and Nicole Dennis- Benn’s ‘Here Comes The Sun’. I decided to read the latter 2 as they were  fairly buzzing new releases!

IMG_2858.JPG 1. The Same Earth – Kei Miller

Goodreads

Synopsis: When Imelda Richardson leaves the small village of Watersgate, Jamaica, armed only with one small suitcase, she is doing so for the second time. One of the throng of young Jamaicans who left the island after the devastating hurricane of 1974, Imelda’s journey has taken her to England, to the home of ganja-growing rebel Purletta Johnson, the arms of fake Northerner Ozzie, and a law degree. But when her mother dies Imelda returns to Watersgate, choosing Jamaica over England. 1983 is still a couple of years shy of the great dancehall explosion in which artists like Shabba Ranks would sing how he “loved punany bad,” and the village is still dominated by the Evangelical church and the thundering voice of Pastor Braithwaite. When Tessa Walcott’s panties are stolen—and in the absence of Perry Mason—she and Imelda decide to set up a Neighborhood Watch. But they haven’t counted on Pastor Braithwaite and the crusading zeal of Evangelist Millie. As a Pentecostal fervor sweeps through the village, the tensions between old and new come to a head.

2. John Crow’s Devil – Marlon James

Goodreads

Synopsis: Set in James’s native Jamaica, this dynamic, vernacular debut sings of the fierce battle between two flawed preachers. In 1957, the village of Gibbeah is a dusty remnant of the plantation era, halfheartedly ministered to by drunken Pastor Hector Bligh, aka the Rum Preacher. On a day beginning with a bad omen—black vultures, locally called John Crows, crash through the church windows—a man calling himself Apostle York “set[s] pon Pastor Bligh like when you beat a mangy dog” and takes over his church. Bligh takes refuge in the home of another village outcast, while York’s commanding presence whips Gibbeah into a frenzy of repentance. Lucinda, long reviled as the town slut, sets her sights on salvation and the Apostle, while Clarence, with whom she had a dalliance, becomes one of “The Five,” a group of young men eager to enforce York’s decrees against sin. It isn’t long before group cohesion becomes mob mentality, and punishments grow increasingly brutal and public. Bligh returns to the fray, and the resulting confrontations set the village on a path to destruction. With gruesome and sometimes gratuitous descriptions of sex and gore, this isn’t a tale for the faint of heart, but those eager for fire-and-brimstone lyricism will find this an exciting read. (Publisher’s Weekly)

 

3. Here Comes The Sun – Nicole Dennis – Benn

Goodreads

Synopsis: At an opulent resort in Montego Bay, Margot hustles to send her younger sister, Thandi, to school. Taught as a girl to trade her sexuality for survival, Margot is ruthlessly determined to shield Thandi from the same fate. When plans for a new hotel threaten their village, Margot sees not only an opportunity for her own financial independence but also perhaps a chance to admit a shocking secret: her forbidden love for another woman. As they face the impending destruction of their community, each woman—fighting to balance the burdens she shoulders with the freedom she craves—must confront long-hidden scars.

 

 

4. Augustown – Kei Miller

Goodreads

Synopsis: Ma Taffy may be blind but she sees everything. So when her great-nephew Kaia comes home from school in tears, what she senses sends a deep fear running through her. While they wait for his mama to come home from work, Ma Taffy recalls the story of the flying preacherman and a great thing that did not happen. A poor suburban sprawl in the Jamaican heartland, Augustown is a place where many things that should happen don’t, and plenty of things that shouldn’t happen do. For the story of Kaia leads back to another momentous day in Jamaican history, the birth of the Rastafari and the desire for a better life.

I was very impressed  with the two I read and will be doing 2 separate reviews very soon both on my blog and on Youtube 🙂 I can’t wait 🙂

Where to find me:

Email: bookcrumble@gmail.com

Instagram: @bookcrumble

Twitter: Book_crumble

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The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry Review

 

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So I fell in love with the cover as I’m sure most have you are also just as mesmerised by.  However I had flashbacks to Jesse Burton’s The Miniaturist … another book with a fancy cover and flashy marketing. I was worried that like The Miniaturist – The Essex Serpent would be completely over-hyped and would be impossible to fill any readers expectations.

I don’t blame the authors… I blame the publishers for tricking readers into buying books by putting some releases on such high pedestals that people can’t help but be a little disappointed.

To manage my expectations I went into the book expecting nothing at all.  And YAY it done the trick…

At first I was quite irritated with the writing style. Although textbook “beautiful”, I felt the choice of words and imagery was a little forced and didn’t flow. Words such as ‘implacable and ceded’ were thrown around a little too often. But I won’t criticise the book on its word choice because of my ‘limited’ vocabulary :D. As the story progressed (with my Thesaurus beside me) I got in the rhythm of things.

I felt Sarah’s characters were very balanced, loveable and charismatic. Sarah Perry was able portray most of the main characters quirks and emotions so the audience was able to relate to them. From their feelings of jealousy and temptation to embarrassment and guilt, the complex group dynamics was comical and full of emotion.

As a reader who really doesn’t enjoy Fantasy, Science Fiction or even the slight Magical Realism; I wasn’t sold on the whole serpent tale. It didn’t keep me gripped or in suspense. But I loved how it was used draw the characters together. Cora Seaborne is definitely my favourite, she’s the star of the show. Without her there would be no show. We didn’t get to know Cora on a very personal level as the narrative was a little distant. But like the Serpent Cora was used to hold the story together.

The Essex Serpent  has put me in the mood for Historical Fiction 😀 and I’m sure I’ll find plenty of those to keep me warm through the upcoming Autumn/ Winter. It’s a shame the book wasn’t released in Autumn because it would’ve been a perfect Winter Read.

My Rating: 4.5 stars

Have you read this? What did you think of the book? Impressed / not?

Where to find me:

Email: bookcrumble@gmail.com

Instagram: @bookcrumble

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To Kill A Mockingbird Review

A friend recommended To Kill a Mockingbird  whilst we were in our early teens. I began reading it but didn’t get very far, at the time it wasn’t exactly my idea of leisurely read as a  13 year old. Fast- forward 10+ years, I have finally decided to find my dusty copy and give it another try.

I’ve filmed a Wrap Up Video reviewing TKAM but Filming videos still gives me stage fright.. So I’ve done a blog post as well  to make sure I haven’t missed anything… Choose the format you prefer!

Review

The novel is set in early 1930’s Alabama (United States)  and is written from the perspective of Scout (Jean Louise Finch) who is a young girl between the ages of 6-9 years old. Scout is the daughter of a lawyer who has been assigned to defend a innocent black man who has been accused of raping a young white lady.

The mistake I made when I was younger when I attempted to read this book was to think that the entire book would be focused on this case so I was very disappointed when I realized it was not. It isn’t until a third into the book when the case was slowly introduced to the readers.I’d  best describe To Kill a Mocking Bird to be somewhat of a coming of age story as we get to see Scout begin to make sense of the world and question why life around her is the way it is. Understanding race relations and inequality is a large part of this discovery. However it isn’t all that Scout begins to question throughout the book or develop an understanding on.  Scout also skims themes such as Class, prejudice, Education, religion, sexism (gender stereotypes), and TOLERANCE. Tolerance of others views / opinions. Overall the conflicting perspectives and double standards Harper Lee presents us with through Scout’s community screams HYPOCRISY but through Atticus she also promotes Tolerance, patience and the importance of maintaining respect.

Scout is a great protagonist you get the curiosity, innocence and humor of a young child but you also get the concentration and depth you would expect from an adult protagonist. Scout has a strong personality isn’t afraid to voice her opinions stand up for what’s right and  doesn’t think twice to defend those around her who she loves.

I found the chapters leading up to the case very innocent, and extremely enjoyable getting to know the characters within Maycomb. I was certainly more patient and was able to appreciate the plot build up.

The writing style was fantastic – just the perfect amount of description and analysis for me. I completely understand and agree to the novel being classed as a classic and great modern literature. It wasn’t the easiest of reads – the southern dialect and detail made things a little harder to digest – So it did take me a week or two.

I did enjoy this book but I can’t deny my expectations did affect my reading experience. Entirely my fault.  I couldn’t help it but I was preoccupied with the court case and therefore was disappointed that audience weren’t a little more involved from that perspective. I think everyone who plans to read the book should  avoid what I did and go in with an open mind and see it as more of a coming of age story rather than reducing the book to the court case which is only a small ( but nonetheless important) fraction of the book

Regardless I will give this a solid 4 stars and I will be reading ‘ Go Set a Watchman’

Favorite Required Reading (UK )

Hello Everyone!

I’ve decided to give Youtube a trial to share my opinions on all things book- related! I can’t believe I’m doing this  but I thought why not?

So here’s my latest video on my Favourite Required Reading where I share with you why I enjoyed:

  1. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
  2. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
  3. A Streetcar Named Desire – Tennessee Williams
  4. An Inspector Calls – J.B. Priestley

 

Thank You,

Jay

Chinua Achebe – Things Fall Apart

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As much as  Anxiety has stolen my appreciation for most social media platforms… I somehow seem to have
found my balance with Instagram …and it was on Instagram I stumbled accross  Chinua Achebes Things Fall Apart.

The book is split into two parts. I really enjoyed Part One  – I’ve never read anything quite like it, the few African literature I have read have been set in post colonial era so I found reading about Okonkwo’s daily life and tribe’s culture before European involvement very refreshing and insightful.

The tone changes within part 2. You do feel  Okonkwo’s loss of power and things falling apart in every sense for Okonkwo and his community.

I’m aware some readers have felt Okonkwo is a very obnoxious character and couldn’t bear hearing his journey or appreciate the novel because of that. But I think most people  can put that aside and maintain a neutral opinion of him throughout as I think the author may have intended.

Things Fall Apart hasn’t left me in a rush to read the rest of the trilogy any time soon,  but if you haven’t read it I would recommend it to those of you  interested in post colonial or African literature, even if you read it as a stand alone book.

My Rating : 3.75 Stars …to be precise

Goodreads

Book Review: The Virgin Suicides (Jeffrey Eugenides)

After seeing a few great reviews floating around the interweb – I decided to add this to my to read pile.

Synopsis:

In an ordinary suburban house, on a lovely tree-lined street, in the middle of virgin-suicides-fashion-photo-shoot-neon-mamacita071970s America, lived the five beautiful, dreamy Lisbon sisters, whose doomed fates indelibly marked the neighborhood boys who to this day continue to obsess over them. A story of love and repression, fantasy and terror, sex and death, memory and longing. It is at its core a mystery story: a heart-rending investigation into the impenetrable, life-altering secrets of American adolescence.

My Thoughts :   I  must admit I didn’t particularly enjoy this. (don’t you just feel like the Grinch whenever you say you don’t like a cult classic?)

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I felt it was definitely tailored to a younger/ teenage audience . I probably would’ve appreciated it a little more if I read  it a decade ago  – but truly feel a good book can be appreciated at any age.

Apart from exploring  the characters roaring sexuality – which is a topic I did tend to enjoy moreso during my teen years, I found the book  very bland. The first suicide happened quite early in the book whilst the  final 4 suicides happened within the last few pages – As grim as it sounds D: , this left a gaping hole in between where you were kept waiting for the pin to drop.

It was a very poignant book – I felt a great sadness throughout, but the boys obsession with such a sad situation was very unsettling. images I just sat there thinking why are they idolising such unhappy people – WHY DOESN’T ANYONE DO ANYTHING? !  It’s almost as if the sister’s sadness was adding to their appeal! I wanted to crawl into the story and give the sisters all a big hug. I suppose the protagonist was writing from a reflective perspective – and hence did not realise how serious the situation was at the time.

Overall it just wasn’t for me – as usual I was ever so tempted to put it aside half way through – but i was determined to get through… so  yay me for making it through 🙂

Rating : * * (two stars) (  However I think i’ll give the film a try – I have a strange feeling i’ll prefer it)

Have you read  the book or seen the film? Tell me what you think 😀

Where to purchase:download

Amazon

The Book Depository