The True History of Paradise: Book summary and reviews of The True History of Paradise by Margaret Cezair-Thompson

The True History of Paradise

By Margaret Cezair-Thompson

The True History of Paradise

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Book Summary

Easter, 1981, and Jamaica's in a state of emergency. With violence in the streets and a government about to collapse, the Landing family gathers to bury one of its own. For Monica Landing, the proud, imperious matriarch who had not spoken to her daughter in fifteen years, the death of Lana Landing is the cruelest kind of loss. For Lana's younger sister, Jean, it is a tragedy she cannot comprehend. All she knows is that her beloved homeland, with its blue mountains and exuberant flora, its rich African rhythms and crashing ocean waves, holds no future for her.

But flight means crossing a landscape where soldiers turned executioners and armed gangs rule, where fires rage and unburied bodies lie in the roads. Flight means making her way through the memories that engulf her, with a good and silent man, perhaps the only man she has ever loved, traveling by her side, caught up in his own tormented memories of Jean's beautiful, flamboyant sister.

Told from a multiplicity of perspectives, True History of Paradise captures the grace, beauty, and brutality that are indelible parts of the Jamaican experience. The story of three women born into a divided, troubled paradise becomes the history of a country, of generations of wanderers coming together in a place that can neither sustain nor be sustained by them, but that will shape them forever.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"She manages to depict with vivid immediacy Jamaica's terrors and seductions, portraying a society in which poverty is endemic, and a sense of menace exists in a setting of paradisal beauty." - Publishers Weekly.

"Cezair-Thompson's first novel is a dynamic crazy quilt, often jumping too rapidly from one time period to another but suffused throughout with descriptions of Jamaica's tropical flowers, fruits, and foods. The family tree is necessary to keep track of the characters, and the glossary of Jamaican dialect is helpful. Yet despite these scholarly trappings, this is a lively work of fiction. Stretch out in the sun and enjoy." - Library Journal.

"While some may have trouble keeping track of the seemingly never-ending list of characters that slip in and out of Jean's life, Cezair-Thompson's ambitious family drama will nonetheless pull readers in with its solid craftsmanship and good old-fashioned storytelling." - Booklist.

"A heartbreakingly rich, beautiful story whose characters hauntingly embody their country's travail, for which novelist-screenwriter Cezair-Thompson has devised the perfect structure. A very accomplished debut." - Kirkus Reviews.

"Margaret Cezair-Thompson's first novel, is a brilliant, sophisticated piece of fiction. For those who love Jamaica, The True History of Paradise is a vivid and evocative work and one that fully lives up to its title." - Island Magazine.

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Author Information

Margaret Cezair-Thompson Author Biography

Margaret Cezair-Thompson was born in Jamaica, West Indies; she attended St Andrews High School for Girls, a long-established government-subsidized school that has produced many of Jamaican's most prominent women.  She also spent a year at a Roman Catholic boarding school in the countryside called Servite Convent of the Assumption School for Girls—which was a bit like the school she describes Ida as attending in The Pirate's Daughter.  She was expelled after a year and returned happily to St Andrews.

She came of age as Jamaica emerged from being a British colony to being an independent nation.  She left Jamaica at nineteen years old to attend Barnard College in New York where she received a B.A. in English.  She received her Ph.D. in English ...

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