Saturday, May 21, 2016

Book Review: Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid

Release date: October 22, 1990
Author links: Goodreads
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Pages: 176
Purchase links: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

The coming-of-age story of one of Jamaica Kincaid's most admired creations--newly available in paperback

Lucy, a teenage girl from the West Indies, comes to North America to work as an au pair for Lewis and Mariah and their four children. Lewis and Mariah are a thrice-blessed couple--handsome, rich, and seemingly happy. Yet, alomst at once, Lucy begins to notice cracks in their beautiful facade. With mingled anger and compassion, Lucy scrutinizes the assumptions and verities of her employers' world and compares them with the vivid realities of her native place. Lucy has no illusions about her own past, but neither is she prepared to be deceived about where she presently is. 

At the same time that Lucy is coming to terms with Lewis's and Mariah's lives, she is also unravelling the mysteries of her own sexuality. Gradually a new person unfolds: passionate, forthright, and disarmingly honest. In Lucy, Jamaica Kincaid has created a startling new character possessed with adamantine clearsightedness and ferocious integrity--a captivating heroine for our time.

I knew nothing about this book as I picked it up from the library. To be honest, I can't even remember hearing about Jamaica Kincaid before this book. The fact that it was fairly short and had a synopsis that went well with my current interest in postcolonial and feminist literature was all that was really needed for me to pick this one up. Now that I've read it, I can say that I make awesome decisions in libraries, because I really ended up enjoying this one and found it to be an extremely interesting reading experience! 

I believe this book is set in late 1960s/1970s and the novel begins when Lucy, a teenager (she's about 19, I believe) from West Indies arrives in North America to work as as a nanny for a white couple, Mariah and Lewis, and their four daughters. Mariah and Lewis are rich, gorgeous and seem like the happiest people in the world, and as Lucy tries to get used to her life abroad, she continually wonders how people like Mariah and Lewis can have the privilege to have for example a rainy day as "the worst problem in their life". The more and more Lucy follows the actions of the people in her new life, the more she compares them to the actions of people in her home country, especially to those of her mother. While it is clear that she misses home, there are clearly things she is trying to run away from, and especially her relationship with her mother is something this novel interestingly delves into.

I found Lucy to be an extremely interesting character. The fact that she is looking at and commenting on people who look and act very much like me (no, I am not really rich, but I do get my privilege) made this an extremely interesting read and definitely made me question and examine my own privilege. The development of the relationship between Lucy and Mariah was probably one of the most interesting aspects of the novel, and something I definitely would have liked to read more of. I also really enjoyed Lucy's growth, the discovery of her sexual side, and the way she comments on things she sees with very honestly and clearly.

I really enjoyed Kincaid's writing style and definitely want to read something else by her. Lucy is a fairly short read, so if you are at all interested, I recommend picking this one up - it didn't take long to read it, but there is so much there that one could grab onto for further discussion/analysis, such as the references to other literature, the way the book comments of black transnationalism, etc. 


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