Summary and book reviews of The Pirate's Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson

The Pirate's Daughter

By Margaret Cezair-Thompson

The Pirate's Daughter
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  • Hardcover: Oct 2007,
    432 pages.
    Paperback: Aug 2008,
    432 pages.

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Book Summary

“Back in America, little was known of my life in Jamaica,” wrote Errol Flynn.

In 1946, a storm-wrecked boat carrying Hollywood’s most famous swashbuckler shored up on the coast of Jamaica, and the glamorous world of 1940’s Hollywood converged with that of a small West Indian society. After a long and storied career on the silver screen, Errol Flynn spent much of the last years of his life on a small island off of Jamaica, throwing parties and sleeping with increasingly younger teenaged girls. Based on those years, The Pirate’s Daughter is the story of Ida, a local girl who has an affair with Flynn that produces a daughter, May, who meets her father but once.

Spanning two generations of women whose destinies become inextricably linked with the matinee idol’s, this lively novel tells the provocative history of a vanished era, of uncommon kinships, compelling attachments, betrayal and atonement in a paradisal, tropical setting. As adept with Jamaican vernacular as she is at revealing the internal machinations of a fading and bloated matinee idol, Margaret Cezair-Thompson weaves a saga of a mother and daughter finding their way in a nation struggling to rise to the challenge of independence.

prologue.
the island that was errol flynn’s

The stories my mother told me weren’t the ones I wanted to hear, stories about the man she said was my father, stories that seemed to come not just from her but upon her, unguarded and effusive, or as we say in Jamaica, “Mouth open, story fly out.”

I loved stories about the pirates who used to rove among these islands. True Accounts of Sea Robbers, Treasure Island - these were the books I read over and over again until I knew whole passages by heart. And then at some point, with all those lofty phrases in my head, I began making up my own story. I called it Treasure Cove.

That was also the name I’d given to a place here on the island, a cove where a coconut tree leaned out crookedly over the water. You could sit on the tree trunk and imagine it was a ship at anchor. A white bougainvillea grew on the slope above, and I used it as a landmark - She can see it all from the veranda - the cove and the white ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About the Book Novelist Margaret Cezair-Thompson has found fertile material in Errol Flynn’s real-life passion for the Caribbean. In his later years he lived and played in Jamaica, and that is the springboard for a daring what-if tale about how the accidents and incidents of history and popular culture shape the lives of two women.

When Errol Flynn’s misdirected boat washes up on the shore of Jamaica in 1946, in The Pirate’s Daughter, it is like a message in a bottle tossed randomly from one world to another. And the fading film star deciphers a fresh paradise where he can practice his aging rakishness. While Eli Joseph, the area’s justice of the peace, reads friendship in the foreign man’s attentions, his ...
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Reviews

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Inspired by a few facts from Errol Flynn's life, and rooting her story firmly in Jamaican history, Cezair-Thompson vividly imagines the life of Ida, who is little more than a child herself when she gives birth to her daughter May, the illegitimate child of 1930/40s movie star Errol Flynn - known as a swashbuckling adventurer on screen, and for his glittering parties and affairs off screen. Most of the action takes place in Jamaica, but even when Ida leaves the island for some years the author stays true to the Jamaican experience because, for at least a century, one of Jamaica's primary exports has been its people.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
O Magazine - Michele Owens

Once you get past a slightly-too-literary wrapping for the narrative, including a confusing prologue, this speedboat just buzzes along. The real star? It’s not Errol Flynn, it’s Jamaica.

The Washington Post - Amy Alexander

Set in the golden years between the end of World War II and the onset of the political and economic upheavals that began under Prime Minister Michael Manley in the 1970s, "The Pirate's Daughter" sparkles with characters real and imagined Cezair-Thompson unravels a surprising yarn that is rich, salty and ultimately satisfying.

Publishers Weekly

For all the high drama, the reader never feels fully privy to Ida or May, but Cezair-Thompson otherwise succeeds magnificently in evoking a world distant in both time and place.

Author Blurb Angela Bobbitt, Reed's Gum Tree Bookstore
"A very clever read...the excitement and glamor of Old Hollywood mixed with the rich and bold characters of Jamaica make for a great adventure. But what makes this novel such a standout is the author's talent of evoking place! I was there...I could smell the dampness, the rotting bananas..feel the languor brought on by the heat, and taste the Otaheite apples. Sometimes after I finish a book I think of what I would have done differently...not in this case. The Pirate's Daughter is perfect."

Author Blurb Fred Powell, Main Street Books
Great story, wonderful/fully developed characters (will I ever forget Ida?), a little bit of Hollywood charm and name dropping (Capote, Monroe), but most interesting to me were all the political and social changes that were happening in Jamaica during the time period of the story.... Altogether a great book.

Author Blurb Susan Diffenderfer, Tall Tales Book Shop
After spending two straight days reading, I guess you could say I was totally absorbed. The chance meeting of an aging, ever vain Errol Flynn and Ida, a young, mixed-race girl and their ensuing brief relationship is the beginning of a poignant story of unrequited love and its ripple effect over two generations of family and friends. Imperfect yet intriguing characters made the narrative come to life, and the setting on the island of Jamaica is so vividly described, I almost felt the ocean breezes, smelled the frangipani, and listened to the island's patois. What is it about pirates and other swashbuckling types that continues to hold our interest over the years? Is it the freedom from ordinary rules? I wonder.

Author Blurb Stephen F. Shapiro, Rainy Day Books
After the tumultuous drama of her first novel The True History of Paradise, Margaret Cezair-Thompson’s new novel takes on a lighter air, but one no less atmospheric, about the unique way of life that is Jamaica. Combining elements both real and imagined—the actor Errol Flynn’s wayward years there, spent in mischief, like Gauguin’s time in Tahiti, as well as the author’s own romance with the high seas and Robinson Crusoe—The Pirate’s Daughter is a fantasy which unfolds in its own time, and on its own level of entertainment. Island characters who grow chapter by chapter are accorded respect as much as a sense of the comic (and, even, the cosmic), as they seek to entangle the secrets behind Flynn’s life and the mysteries of fiction. This is not the book that the title leads one to think it will be, or should; it flowers all on its own as a perfect word-of-mouth family fantasy.

Author Blurb Jamie Kornegay, Turnrow Books
I was completely caught off guard by how wonderful it is.... Everything here is very real and alive. The story is light and swift as a sea breeze, and imbued with the genuine essence of Jamaica. Her characters bound off the page, and while many writers would be tempted to give Errol Flynn run of the show, the mother and daughter outshine the matinée idol. I won't soon forget this family. The Pirate's Daughter has the makings of a sleeper hit.

Author Blurb Marva Allen, Hue-Man Bookstore (NY)
There are books and then there are great books . Once in awhile, these days, a great book comes along that makes a bookseller proud to be a part of its success ... The Pirate's Daughter is a literary triumph that combines all the elements of a great novel: romance, intrigue, history, glamour and suspense. What an unforgettable masterpiece. I can't wait for the giant to awaken!

Author Blurb Kathy L. Patrick, Founder of the Pulpwood Queens Book Clubs
A treasure to read…A splendid adventure in reading and one that I would highly recommend for any armchair traveler.

Reader Reviews
Kaley

Fantastic book
This is one of the most entertaining books I've ever read! I pray the author is writing another book soon.

Kathy

Excellent - didn't want to put it down
I SO enjoyed this book. I thought the premise was intriguing (Errol Flynn fathering a child in Jamaica), although Flynn is not the main character, and actually, comes off as sort of a self-absorbed, pitiful character. the book was rich with details...   Read More

Deborah

Family and Identity
An imaginative, touching book about love, the longing for family, and the search for identity. Both Ida and May are caught among racial identities (African, Chinese, Caucasian) in the changing Jamaica of the 1960s and beyond. The author portrays ...   Read More

Kathy

Excellent - didn't want to put it down
I SO enjoyed this book. I thought the premise was intriguing (Errol Flynn fathering a child in Jamaica), although Flynn is not the main character, and actually, comes off as sort of a self-absorbed, pitiful character. the book was rich with details...   Read More

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A Short History of Jamaica

The island nation of Jamaica is in the Greater Antilles about 385 northeast of the Central American mainland, and about 90 miles south of Cuba. Within a century of Columbus sailing the ocean blue and the subsequent Spanish occupation of the island in 1494, the native Arawaks (who called the island Xaymaca) had effectively died out, due to smallpox and interbreeding with European and African settlers (the term Arawak is used to describe the Amerindians the ...

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