Jamaica Kincaid's novel follows Annie John from childhood through her teenage years. Annie John is an intelligent only child, worshipped by her parents, who slowly grows beyond them and her childhood friends. The novel focuses on Annie's relationship with her mother, which goes from adoration to naked hatred as she grows up. Written very much from Annie's viewpoint, the novel explores authority in its various forms; from the classic authority figures of parents and teachers through to the way Annie holds court over her friends.
It's a nicely written book and an easy read, depicting the self-centred and often selfish innocence of youth totally realistically and yet, for me, it just wasn't that appealing a read. Annie John is not a sympathetic character and for all I felt that I was supposed to side with her in her rebelliousness, as she broke free from childhood, this often just felt like being asked to side with a spoilt child's petulance. Additionally, as a portrait of a mother-daughter relationship it is completely one-sided; we never know how her mother really feels about her. It is also somewhat strange that a novel about teenage years runs its entire course without any mention of the opposite sex: Annie's adolescence is marked only by a curiosity about her own changing physical appearance. And then there is the inexplicable weather-related illness which seems neither to forward the plot nor add to the characterisation of either Annie or her parents.
Kincaid writes beautifully about Antigua and its people and creates a very evocative picture of childhood there but for me, I just never really cared about Annie John and that's a key problem in a novel bearing her name.