Annie John was exactly the kind of book I was looking for when I signed up to take a module on Caribbean fiction. It’s not hard to see what called to me about a character growing up on a Caribbean island, all while studying a British curriculum. That experience of reciting ‘I wondered lonely as a cloud’ but never having seen a daffodil was something I could definitely relate to. It’s not an experience many of my friends have had, so even seeing it reflected in fiction was exciting to me, both in my twenties and now.
The piano teacher, a shrivelled-up old spinster from Lancashire, England, soon asked me not to come back, since I seemed unable to resist eating from the bowl of plums she had placed on the piano purely for decoration.Annie John, Jamaica Kincaid
You could say that not very much happens in Annie John, but I was never bored. It felt like a different kind of coming-of-age story, one that reminded me of Spinning Straw into Gold. (Reading Annie John through the lens of pubescent transformation would almost certainly be interesting!) I found Annie’s desperation for change particularly effective, in this post-lockdown world and yet, for all that, I didn’t feel her emotions as strongly as I have in some other books. Maybe the very similarities between parts of our lives made the differences seem much more divisive.
My father could hardly get a few words out of his mouth before she was a jellyfish of laughter.Annie John, Jamaica Kincaid
I’m finding these books I first read at university quite difficult to review. There’s a sense, I think, that I still don’t fully understand them because they have so many different layers. I want to keep coming back to them with more experience, more literary awareness, and that makes me feel as though I can’t comprehensively review them. Like Song of Solomon, Annie John will definitely go back on the shelf to be reread as my older and wiser future self.