Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid (1985)
Annie John grows up in St. John’s, Antigua. She is a smart girl, but also naughty which makes her popular amongst the girls in her new class. Annie loves her mother, but she is very strict, so Annie has to hide and lie about things like playing with marbles and spending time with the very dirty Red Girl at the abandoned lighthouse.
Although it is fun to read about Annie’s adventures in Antigua, I was disappointed when I finished it. Was this all? I kept expecting a turning point somewhere and it all seemed too fragmented. And reading the Wikipedia page, I found the reason why; the chapters were published as stories in the New Yorker before they were put together in a book. And when you read them as individual stories they make more sense than a novel. They are witty and Annie’s world is an interesting place. But I just wish this book would be more than it is.
I blame my high expectations on the fact that it is on the list of 1001 books you should read before you die. It made it onto the list in 2008 after the list in 2006 was criticised for having too many dead old white men. I do see the point of a more diverse list, but I know a lot of other books I’d have put on the list instead of Annie John. I have the Autobiography of my Mother on my shelves, so I will give Jamaica Kincaid another chance later on. Her newest novel, See Now Then, also seems intriguing.