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Strange Music [Hardcover]

Laura Fish
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

10 July 2008
In 1837 an ailing Elizabeth Barrett is confined to bed, suffering debilitating illness. Longing for a return to health and mobility, she corresponds with friends, endures uncomfortable remedies, writes poetry and frets over her father and siblings. On the Barrett estate in Jamaica a Creole maidservant named Kaydia is struggling to save her child from the abusive attentions of the master. In the cane fields, indentured laborer and former slave Sheba mourns the loss of her lover. In this richly complex novel, Laura Fish recreates the worlds of three women whose lives are inextricably linked at a moment of crisis within the Barrett family.Moving from Torquay in Devon to Cinnamon Hill in Jamaica, "Strange Music" explores the notion that history consists of multiple, even contradictory versions. Kaydia and Sheba narrate their stories in a distinctive patois, with a depth of emotion and experience that is heart-rending. Like Jamaica, they struggle to escape a tragic past which seems ever-present. Elizabeth is geographically and emotionally distant, at once consumed with domestic minutiae and, as she matures as a writer, painfully aware of the source of her wealth and privilege. This hugely ambitious and rewarding story marks the return of a writer gifted with an unforgettable lyrical voice. As Elizabeth, Kaydia and Sheba struggle, each in her own way, towards emancipation, "Laura Fish" evokes the inescapable violence of slavery in prose that is immediate, consuming and ultimately redeeming.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd (10 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224080857
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224080859
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 13.8 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,487,063 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'extraordinary second novel' -- Scotland on Sunday, Marc Lambert

Book of a Lifetime -- Independent

`Fish is a passionate and poetic writer'
-- Telegraph, Rev's by Helen Brown

`clearly a gifted writer, and her manipulation of language is her forte - brilliant, sensuous and shocking' -- Sunday Times, Rev'd Elizabeth Buchan

`once Strange Music grips you, you won't be able to put it down'
-- The Independent, Andrea Stuart

Book Description

'Once Strange Music grips you, you won't be able to put it down' - Independent --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
By purpleheart TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
'In blue light Master Sam lies, sickly face sweating yellow. Hips, shins, spine - him body curl up making spiral shell shape.'

The first sentence of the novel introduces Sam Barrett as seen by a West Indian 'apprentice' - a former slave.

This is a fascinating juxtaposition of stories from the points of view of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and of two slaves of her family sugar plantation in the West Indies - Sheba, a field slave and Kaydia, a maid. Kaydia becomes mistress to Elizabeth Barrett's brother Sam to stop her young daughter being assaulted by him. The lack of control that the slaves / 'apprentices' have over their lives is almost obscene in contrast to the depiction of the corrupt plantation owners and even Elizabeth Barrett's invalid concerns in Torquay.

There is a sense of impending doom in the novel - a lack of control of self determination, whether of slave or invalid. The different voices employed - patois and Barrett's poetry - underline the differences in their lives, though it can make the reading difficult at times.

The novel reminded me of Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea, of course. The horrible and hidden decadence in the Barrett family in the West Indies is contrasted with their life in England. Barrett feels the 'pollution' of slavery, in contrast her father wishes none of them to marry as their black blood would continue to pollute the family line.

Strong on atmosphere and place and mostly successful in weaving the disparate stories together. Nearly four stars
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