“That morning, the morning of my first day, the morning that followed my first night, was a sunny morning. It was not the sort of bright sun-yellow making everything curl at the edges, almost in fright, that I was used to, but a pale-yellow sun, as if the sun had grown weak from trying too hard to shine; but still it was sunny, and that was nice and made me miss my home less.” Jamaica Kincaid, Lucy
In many ways I feel as though the protagonist of Kincaid’s “Annie John” found her way into this book, except instead of leaving Antigua for England, she goes to America to work as an au pair for a rich American family. This results in an interesting coming-of-age story, with themes of race and migration added to it, as well as colonialism, the remnants of which continue to reverberate.
This book definitely resonated with me and I could relate to Lucy’s experiences in some sense. Having myself left a former British colony for Canada at the same age as Lucy, I also remember having similar observations about my second stint in the West, especially as an adult. Although my observations were not quite as strong as Lucy’s due to travel and other factors, I could understand her feelings of wanting to leave her home, to start a new life away from meddling eyes, but missing her home when she did eventually leave, because those were my exact sentiments too. Growing into womanhood away from a familiar and protective environment, yes, I can relate.
But unlike Lucy, it took me years until I could put a finger on what annoyed me about people’s questions about home; the way they asked them, and what they asked:
“I wished once again that I came from a place where no one wanted to go, a place that was filled with slag and unexpectedly erupting volcanoes…Somehow it made me ashamed to come from a place where the only thing to be said about it was “I had fun when I was there.”
The idea of symbols and images meaning different things to different people was an especially interesting point. In particular, the daffodil, to the American woman, meant the beauty of Spring and the promises of new beginnings, while for Lucy who’d had to learn Wordsworth’s poem, it meant remembering colonialism and the absurdity of having to memorize poems about flowers that didn’t even grow in her part of the world.
“I felt sorry that I had cast her beloved daffodils in a scene she had never considered, a scene of conquered and conquests…”
But what an unlikable character the protagonist was. I found her thoughts and revelations quite interesting but she was so bitter! I wonder what the reasons were, as she seemed too old to be experiencing teen angst. Still, I really enjoyed this book, primarily because of Kincaid’s absolutely beautiful writing style.