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The Last Warner Woman Paperback – 1 Jul 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Paperback, 1 Jul 2010
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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: W&N (1 July 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297860798
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297860792
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.8 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,432,009 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


a novel posing questions about the very nature of storytelling...a novel for those who are prepared to be teased, willing to roll their tongues around colourful patois and willing to suspend disbelief, relinquinshing their need for things to turn out as they ought to, in exchange for exploring things as they might be. After all, isn't that level of engagement what makes for the most compelling stories? (SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY)

it's unlikely The Last Warner Woman is going to disappoint those who enjoy a wry, magical realist tale of life and death set among the common folk of an offbeat locale... The ace in Miller's hand is a postmodern twist.. an intelligent, engrossing yarn. (METRO)

Poetic and totally original (THE TIMES)

a book packed full of magic realism. It plays with time, voice and reality, luring the reader into one tale before rapidly switching to another. It probes the subjects of death, psychiatric illness and emigration, but in a way that is strangely uplifting, occasionally funny, and frequently moving. (THE SCOTSMAN)

[A] magical read (THE HERALD (Glasgow) 'Hottest Summer Reads')

Skipping effortlessly through a host of complex characters, with this searching and lyrical work Kei Miller achieves an incredibly engaging range of voice from the outset. Laced with issues of migration, family, faith, and most impressively, the imperceptible politics of storytelling, Miller has spun an indelible yarn (THE LIST)

This is magical, lyrical and spellbinding writing from the author of the acclaimed The Same Earth, described by The Independent as a 'name to watch'. (GRANTA)

Miller isn't just a writer... he is a true alchemist and he has produced a thing of beauty here. (Louise Doughty THE HERALD (Glasgow))

Told with delicacy and lyricism... [The Last Warner Woman] is a novel about migration and the nature of storytelling. (THE BIG ISSUE)

this novel has thrummed with energy. The story has spilled out from between the covers... Several days later Adamine's experiences are still fresh in my mind. The deeply disturbed life of a seer has, appropriately enough, cast a sly spell. Allow yourself to be possessed. (SCOTTISH REVIEW OF BOOKS)

Book Description

A young Jamaican woman with a gift of prophecy embarks on a journey that will take her from a leper colony, to revivalist meetings, then to England. Magical, lyrical and spellbinding.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Old Jamaican prophetesses or "Warner Women" warn of catastrophies like earthquakes and tragedies.
Writer Men are authors who tell tales. Warnings and Writings can and are mistaken for one another!

This story starts in the 1940s, when Pearline Portious, is desperate to sell her purple hand-knitted doily at a market in Jamaica, her mother has long told her that doilies "must be white" , but she believes that there is a market for unusually coloured doilies. Pearline visits the leper colony, and the priest not only buys the purple doily from her, but commissions a weekly order of coloured knitted bandages, too.
Pearline later realises these coloured bandages help the lepers cover up the damaged parts of their bodies and the Lepers think the bandages are beautiful.

Pearline's daughter Adamine Bustamante is later born in the Leper colony , and her her gift of prophesy and telling of the future is revered and taken seriously. She migrates to England where she marries and is then labelled as Mad owing to her prophesies , and she becomes institutionalised and 'lost' in the Mental Health System , as far too many people are.
As an old woman Adamine wants to tell her tale and set the record straight, but she is hampered by the Mr Writer Man, a writer who is taking care of her , but he is putting his own twist on her words to enable him to sell his own take on her story .

I liked the easy way it was written and the combination of the use of Jamaican Patois and English speech, switching from past to Adamines present , and looking at the topics of emigration and mental illness , faith and belief.
It is a compelling read that poses the question who actually owns the tale and what will they do with the information and is it a tale or a prophesy?
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Kei Miller spins and weaves his tale like anansi the magical spider. Told in a mixture of Jamaican patois and English, the quick changes of vewpoint between Adamine Bustamante, the last warner woman, and the Writer Man do not confuse, they merely hasten the narrative on so that the book becomes an unforgettable journey. Adamine searches for her identity, and Mr Writer Man's as it turns out.

Adamine was born in Jamaica and suffered incredible privations and injustices, yet all told in such a gentle way that the reader is carried along and only feels the outrage and horror as if from afar. Wrongly named Pearline Portious, her mother's name which was entered incorrectly on her unofficial 'birth certificate', Adamine even has a struggle to convince the authorities of her real name, let alone her real story. Born in a home for lepers, her mother died straight after the birth and she was brought up by a 90 year old carer before running away to join a Revivalist Church and eventually ending up in England married to a worthless man and sectioned into a psychiatric hospital. However, rescue comes in the form of Mr Writer Man, who takes her into his own home to chronicle her story. There are hints at his own story, which comes out in the end and neatly completes the tale.

Moving without becoming sentimental, this book is a scathing indictment of the way we treat black people in our psychiatric system. Full of magic and spirituality which is perfectly acceptable in Jamaica but considered 'odd' or 'mad' here, it is easy to become outraged on Ada's behalf. However, her own dignity saves the story from becoming a political rant and the ending is full of wonder and hope. 'Warner women' are quite simply women who warn - prophetesses of doom in other words.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The warner woman of the title is a woman who does just that; she warns. She senses danger and warns people based on these premonitions. These she believes to be God given warnings, and are inspired by the revivalist church she attends in her native Jamaica. However, when she comes to England to a marriage arranged by her church, she finds the English mode of worship strange, whilst they find her worship and warnings to be a sign of madness.
This biographical tale is told in rambling style that is not always chronological, is told via different persons, and is certainly not always literal. This other worldly, impressionistic style is entirely appropriate to the subject matter and the mode of thought of the main protagonist and there are times when the prose is quite simply beautiful. Perhaps it is my failing as much as the author's, but I must admit that at times I was quite confused and found the story difficult to follow; whilst in general liking the style I felt I needed a little more help understanding things than I was given. In view of this I have awarded just 3 stars but it could easily have been 4. To look at this another way there are some 3 star books I would advise people against bothering reading; OK but not interesting or original. On the other hand I would encourage people to try this novel as it is interesting, stylish and original. However I would be recommending it not with confidence that it would be enjoyed or liked, only that it may interest and provoke discussion.
In some ways in this situation the acid test is whether I would want to read further works by the same author; yes, I would.
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