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The Dead Yard: Tales of Modern Jamaica [Kindle Edition]

Ian Thomson
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £8.99
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Book Description

Jamaica used to be the source of much of Britain's wealth, an island where slaves grew sugar and the money flowed in vast quantities. It was a tropical paradise for the planters, a Babylonian exile for the Africans shipped to the Caribbean. It became independent in 1962.

Jamaica is now a country in despair. It has become a cockpit of gang warfare, drug crime and poverty. Haunted by the legacy of imperialism, its social and racial divisions seem entrenched. Its extraordinary musical tradition and physical beauty are shadowed by casual murder, police brutality and political corruption.

Ian Thomson shows a side of Jamaica that tourists rarely see in their gated enclaves. He travelled country roads in buses and met ordinary Jamaicans in their homes and workplaces; and his encounters with the white elite, who still own most of Jamaica's businesses and newspapers, are unforgettable. Thomson brings alive the country's unique racial and ethnic mix; the all-pervading influence of the USA; and the increasing disillusionment felt by its people, who can't rely on the state for their most basic security. At the heart of the book is Jamaica's tense, uneasy relationship with Britain, to whom it remains politically and culturally bound.

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Product Description


'An insightful picture of modern-day Jamaica ... A powerful and enlightening book that deserves to be read.' --Observer


"The Dead Yard is an awesome rendering of oral history and raw social exposure. Ian Thomson strips Jamaica bare, and takes the island to the cleaners. An amazing performance."

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1029 KB
  • Print Length: 391 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber Non Fiction; Main edition (7 May 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002ZODPR4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • : Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #240,146 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Diary and anecdotes 28 July 2009
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book is billed as something to allow depth of understanding of modern Jamaica. One gets the impression from this that there is going to be analysis and explanation. In fact this never really seems to come to fruition. The book instead is an impressionistic collage, made up of anecdotes relating to a prolonged visit to Jamaica. These are mostly personal anecdotes describing those the author meets during and before his travels. I say 'during and before' in an apparently inverted sort of fashion deliberately, as the anecdotes do indeed jump around in time and place; from events on the author's visit to interviews in London before leaving, with historical anecdote and background for good measure. Sometimes a thread may connect these anecdotes but often they don't; there is instead an abrupt transition from one place and time to another.
The anecdotes themselves are stylishly and engagingly told. The descriptions of people are hugely evocative and capture well individual quirks, with what one instinctively feels is an accurate reflection of character. This makes the book interesting and readable, but in the end there was precious little of the analysis I had expected. There was plenty of anecdote to confirm that Jamaica is a violent and often lawless place, that there was nostalgia for the time of the British, that there was a sense of an opportunity missed following independence. Sadly, I felt there was little real inquiry as to why things had worked out thus, or perhaps more importantly of how things might be improved. Perhaps these events are inexplicable and there's no clear fix, and perhaps that's the point; but despite the excellence of the description, the interest of the characters, and the variet of the anecdotes I felt that there was something missing.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars ...not the whole picture at all.... 10 Jun. 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found this book pretty disappointing - basically, Thomson has interviewed & met [mostly] middle & upper-class Jamaicans, nearly all of whom are disillusioned with post-independence Jamaica. It seems he never had the links to get into the ghetto areas and talk to oridinary people. Instead he talks to remnants of the old aristocracy, middle class intellectuals, and Jamaican people who returned from abroad. As a white man who has visited Jamaica 15 times since 1992, I had a completely different experience, but I also have a lot of friends there too. Yes, it's a rough place, plenty of pointless murders, but plenty of vitality and energy too. And living in east London, there are pointless murders here too, stabbings and the like - it's not just Jamaica. He simplifies very crudely the development of modern Ja music too, saying that it comprises "dull, computerised rhythms", which is nonsense to anyone who knows anything about that music.
On the good side, he's spot on about the dismal colonial abandonment of Jamaica by Britain, not much reward for being a great wealth-producing colony for 400 years. Still that's the good old English for you. Don't let this put you off going to Jamaica, particularly if you like the Reggae & dancehall music.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth a read 18 Jun. 2009
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'm not sure what this book is, a travel book, a documentary or a history book.

What I do know is that it combines all three in a way that works quite well. The book gets under the skin of the country, good and bad. The author describes the people that he meets in good detail, at times you believe that you are standing right next to him, though I did feel he limited his interviews and meetings to people of a certain age and social class. It gives the impression that there is a whole lot more of Jamaica that he may have missed or overlooked, maybe a follow up book could remedy this.
I wouldn't say the book is repetative but at times it does go over old ground, and sometimes wanders between London and Jamaica without too much structure.

However it feels well researched and I like the way the author is not too judgemental on any particular person or country for Jamacain social decline. Instead he tells us how the place came to be, a bit like a history book.

It is a worthwhile book to read, enjoyable and informative and I really liked the title.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars So Close yet so Far Away 8 Jun. 2010
By Eddie
Everything in this book is true. But, this being Jamaica, at the same time none of it is true. It's a bit like the lady who flew in on the morning flight and had lunch in Jamaica, before leaving on the afternoon flight to write the Jamaican entry in a Caribbean cookbook. Apart from the author's general lack of graciousness to his seemingly generous hosts, the book totally lacks any kind of attempt to seek out the 'back' story which would lend his 'tales' some air of authenticity. The description of 'Cat' Coore at Kings House is a case in point - knowing that Coore's father, for example, was a well-known political colleague of the then Governer General, Sir Howard Cooke, would explain his familiar behaviour with the aide de camp, and make it appear not so much mockery or disrespect as is implied, so much as being at ease in a familiar environment. 'Cat' was there, no doubt, to see his Uncle Howard. Such overwhelming gaps in the research, and Thompson's willingness to dismiss a Caribbean cultural icon such as the late Professor Rex Nettleford in two short paragraphs and with the gossipy epithet 'Sexy Rexy' are a cause for concern. The historical material and Thompson's encyclopedic knowledge of Jamaican music somehow don't fully contextualize but rather trivialize the contemporary encounters related in the book. Sadly, I felt that throughout, this book was not so much about 'modern Jamaica' but more about Thompson's own disappointment at being British in an age of post-colonial decline. His cynicism is palpable. I was reminded of the time I took a Jamaican theatre company to the UK in the early 1990's. On previous trips to the USA we had sung the US National anthem followed by the Jamaican anthem with mutual respect. In the UK nobody stood for 'God Save the Queen', which was accompanied by bouts of embarrassed laughter, before the audience finally joined in a mocking pub-like singalong of the Jamaican anthem. We never tried it again.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars I'm none the wiser.
I have lost interest in this badly written book by page 30. I struggled to get there. I'm going to Jamaica soon and hoped that the book would provide some sort of feel for the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Willy Mismot
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice read author covers some parts of the Island I ...
Nice read author covers some parts of the Island I never knew existed.
Informative and interesting book, however title is a bit misleading I found...
Published 4 months ago by Austin Byger
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting content, haphazard presentation
Jamaica. To the tourists who never stray beyond the boundaries of their resort, it's an island paradise. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Karura
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant study of an island in social decline
Enthralling read, uncomfortable at times, but honest and well researched. I repect the fact that Thomson doesn't mince his words when discussing negative aspects of Jamaica. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Felix the Cat
5.0 out of 5 stars Strong Sense of Balance
The Dead Yard is well researched and Thomson writes with authority and a strong sense of balance. Every page bursts with credibility, offers up genuine nuggets, things that only... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Seneca
5.0 out of 5 stars A great story about Jamaica
A great story about Jamaica and it's story. This book provides and incite into why the way Jamaica is today had its start during slavery. A phenomenal book and a great read. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Solid
On the whole I enjoyed reading this book. The author clearly did a lot of historical research on Jamaica and travelled extensively throughout the country. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Nico
5.0 out of 5 stars The a Dead a Yard:A true Tale of Modern a Jamaica
This book gives a very true insight of Jamaica past and present,taking in all it's twelve parishes,people,culture,music,food and much,much more
Published 17 months ago by pearl sellars
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dead Yard - stunning book
Just read this book and thought it was brilliant. I am British and spend part of the year in Jamaica. Read more
Published 22 months ago by MG
1.0 out of 5 stars The Dead Yard
I should have known from the title.
The title says it all.
I gave up half way through. Too depressing.
Published on 10 Feb. 2013 by Mme Leonie Wallace
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