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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 23 November 2014
I resisted reading this when it first came out -- didn't seem like my kind of thing -- but recently I had to read it in order to teach it. I was impressed. It's very cunningly put together, in eight sections each of which focuses on a different stage of Annie John's growing up (I see the book as covering six or seven years), and what one learns in each section makes you reconsider the previous ones so that by the end, the reader has developed a rich sense of psychological and cultural complications. And yet the basic structure is perfectly clear -- a girl reaches a point where she has to separate herself from her mother and she is both empowered by and anxious about that separation. Think of "Paradise Lost," with Adam and Eve separated from paradise and free to work out their own destinies, yet also casting some longing looks back to a time when they didn't have to think of themselves as selves. (In case we don't get the parallel, Annie refers to her situation as "paradise" early in the book, and as a punishment for bad behavior at school, she is made to copy out Books 1 and 2 of Milton's epic.)

Annie's ambivalence shows up in all sorts of ways: in her different ways of responding to her mother; in her friendships with the "good" Gwen and the "bad" Red Girl; in her sometimes outrageous behavior and her stellar academic performance. And the world remains even as she grows up something of a mystery to her -- her mother seems to get angriest with her for behavior that is far from her most outrageous, and it is her mother who seems to spark the separation at the time she starts calling Annie a "young lady," although it might well be that Annie is ready at that point to make an issue of something that will establish some distance. She often says that she doesn't understand why she does what she does, and at such times, I think, Kincaid has nailed something about adolescence truthfully and unsentimentally.

I like the way too that the book develops a cultural-political subtext that puts Annie's growing freedom in the context of the colonial heritage of Antigua. When Annie sees a picture in her history book of Columbus in Chains, she defaces it by writing under it "The Great Man can no longer get up and go." Columbus, of course, is the godfather of European colonialism, and Annie is being educated in a school run on English lines (Queen Victoria's birthday is celebrated). So her defacing can be seen to represent the impotence of these old structures -- as can the girls lying on the tombstones of the old colonial masters as they discuss their changing bodies in adolescence.

I haven't even mentioned the picture that we get throughout of Annie's parents' marriage (apparently close and sexual, despite a 35-year age gap), as well as the tension between the old ways that are associated with the Caribbean ("obeah" magic and healing) and relatively modern medicine. The whole effect is to enrich a familiar story line ("growing up") in a way that makes the narrative voice distinctive and, in its concreteness, plausible and that embeds it in a very specific culture at a particular historical moment. Very much worth reading -- and very readable.
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Enjoyable book, narrated by Annie John, a young girl growing up in a relatively comfortable home in Antigua. In the first chapters, she is in a close and adoring relationship with her mother:
'I just liked to look at her mouth as it opened and closed over words, or as she laughed. How terrible it must be for all the people who had no one to love them so and no one whom they loved so, I thought.'
But as she reaches adolescence, we see her breaking away; no longer the lovely biddable daughter, Annie's thoughts centre on unsuitable friends, lying and stealing, and her feelings for her mother are more akin to hatred:
'My mother turned to face me. We looked at each other, and I could see the frightening black thing leave her to meet the frightening black thing that had left me. They met in the middle and embraced.'
Evocative; brings back memories of my teens!
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on 7 March 2010
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.
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on 18 February 2011
Fantastic insights into the difficulty of the mother/child seperation from the perspective of the child. Insightful reading for mothers of teenagers.
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on 23 December 2013
This is a short, but beautifully written novel evoking the life of an Antiguan teenager named Annie John aka 'Little Miss'. Kincaid captures the emotions and turbulence of puberty extremely well, and I particularly enjoyed her descriptions of Antigua in her distinctive, lyrical prose. A wonderful read!
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on 19 August 2014
Fresh and straight from thé heart
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on 13 June 2004
A book of wonder. I read the book at one go. Divinely written. Jamaica Kincaid has the most exceptional writing talent, I have ever seen.
A lovely, uplifting novel. A blessing. Food for the soul.
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on 23 May 2014
Great Seller, great read.
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on 3 December 2015
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on 20 November 2014
The cover was slightly worn down but not too much. Inside with some notes written on the first pages. Overall good condition.
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