Greetings, readers! My name is Sareeta Domingo, and I’m an author and fiction editor. It’s my great pleasure to be bringing you a Book of the Week, each week here on Morning Mari.
It was my mother’s birthday earlier this week, which made me think of the stories my mum has told me of her childhood and the naughty shenanigans she’d get up to growing up in Sierra Leone. Those stories remind me of a novel that in many ways evoked the same feeling. So this week, my Book of the Week selection is the fantastic Annie John, written by Antiguan author Jamaica Kincaid.
The book is also set in Antigua, with shades of fictionalised autobiography from the author. It follows the titular girl, Annie John, as she grows up on the idyllic island, idolising her mother and navigating the challenges of starting out at a new school. Narrated by Annie’s character, we get to see the humorous escapades of this precocious young girl, her deep loyalty to and love for close friend Gwen, and then her burgeoning obsession with another child she names ‘the Red Girl’, whose freedom from chores and the seeming constraints of hygiene Annie admires greatly.
But as Annie grows older, we see her drifting apart from and starting to clash with her mother, and Kincaid shows us how the onset of adolescence and womanhood begin to challenge the once strong bonds between the two. There are also hints at the seeming benefits but also the cultural erosions that colonialism has caused for Antigua.
More than anything, though, the novel introduces us to a spirited, hugely engaging heroine with whom almost any of us who’ve experienced the transitional period between adolescence and early adulthood can relate. Kincaid makes us really root for Annie, and to hope that she will make it, as she sails off—literally and figuratively—into her future. It’s a classic, beautifully rendered tale, and that is why Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid is my Book of the Week this week.