22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
The guilty shame of a middle class liberal,
This review is from: The Dead Yard: Tales of Modern Jamaica (Paperback)
I can't help wondering why the author wrote this book. Was it to provide an insight into Jamaica or was it to prove what a right-on modern liberal he is? His insistence throughout the book of blaming everything on Britain is so typical of English middle class leftie types. The rule he employs is basically that anything positive in Jamaican culture can be traced back to Africa, while anything negative is a legacy of slavery or colonialism.
He complains at one point that Britain abandoned Jamaica after independence, but then gripes continually that Britain still has an influence over the Island. Which one is it? He seems to go to great lengths to find people who are still clinging to a sense of Britishness - it's not surprising that most of them are very old! The truth is that to most Jamaicans Britain is just another foreign country, and the only things that strengthens the links between the two are that a) a lot of British tourists go there and b) a lot of Jamaicans have family in Britain. I have never met anyone in Jamaica who shows any reverence towards Britain; the island is far more aligned with America these days. There are strong arguments to suggest that the US government and the IMF are far more responsible for Jamaica's modern decline that Britain is, but that is scarcely mentioned. Why no mention of Kingston's free zone for example?
The culture of Jamaica is overwhelmingly about the working class people of Kingston - why didn't he focus on them instead of hunting down obscure descendants of plantation owners or snobby returnees? He only seemed to want to interview `name brand' people. And why no mention of the town / country divide that defines many Jamaicans' identities?
If this book was supposed to be about alternative and minority cultures in Jamaica then the author did a good job: much of the information about groups such as the Jews and Scots is fascinating. I did actually enjoy the book, but it seemed to be driven more by the author's own political views than Jamaica itself. Probably got a good review in the Guardian though...