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Book of Jamaica Paperback – March 27, 1996

3.5 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A compelling novel....Banks achieves effects at once beautiful and brutal. A virtuoso performance.""--Publishers Weekly"

About the Author

Russell Banks is one of America's most prestigious fiction writers, a past president of the International Parliament of Writers, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His work has been translated into twenty languages and has received numerous prizes and awards, including the Common Wealth Award for Literature. He lives in upstate New York and Miami, Florida.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1st HarperPerennial Ed edition (March 27, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060977078
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060977078
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #498,358 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Russell Banks is the author of sixteen works of fiction, many of which depict seismic events in US history, such as the fictionalized journey of John Brown in Cloudsplitter. His work has been translated into twenty languages and has received numerous international prizes, and two of his novels-The Sweet Hereafter and Affliction-have been made into award-winning films. His forthcoming novel, The Reserve, will be published in early 2008. President of the International Parliament of Writers and former New York State Author, Banks lives in upstate New York.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on August 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
I"m a Jamaican-American who recently returned to Jamaica to live. I saw the book on a remainder table. It's amazing. It captures many essential truths about Jamaican culture and class conflicts during a pivotal time in its history (the 70's), plus it's beautifully and lovingly written. Sometimes the "outsider" perspective gives us important truths, and this is a prime example. If you're at all interested in Jamaica, this is a must read.
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Format: Paperback
The plot of this early Bank's novel revolves around a vacation to the seductive island of Jamaica by a college professor and his wife. They rent a home with patio and swimming pool on the outskirts of Port Antonio. Servants come on each day to cook and clean. The couple is protected from the turbulence of the island's cultural and political life by a fence made of both wire and social class (not to mention race). But the professor, the narrator of this tale, soon finds himself enjoying the company of the locals; in particular a young Rastafarian who has plenty of powerful Jamaican ganja he is very willing to share. Sure enough, before too much time has elapsed, the professor is smoking all the day long and providing transportation in his rental car to a small group of Marroons and Rastas that stay locally for short periods of time but live up in the mountains where they have their marijuana fields and live in villages with their families.
There are several trips back to the island after the narrator's life is completely transformed by his experiences during the first. His wife no longer accompanies him however as their marraige was one of the first casualities of his abrupt new fascination with Rastfarianism, Marroon culture, and ganja. You can imagine! But what starts out as an adventure full of promise, unfortunately follows an inevitable course ending in sorrow and not a little horror. Any attempt to blithely transcend differences of race and class are doomed, the author seems to be saying. And ganja will not of its own power make a story turn out all right, regardless of it's enormous capacity to create an internal state that seems to be mystically protected from all outward harm. In fact the opposite may be true.
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Format: Paperback
Forget all the Guides to Jamaica. If you really want to know how an American might feel living in my country, where "no problem" is the national password, yet a country full of problems, read this little known--at least in Jamaica--book. It captures the undertow of violence as well as the beauty of the place, giving a most realitic and compelling description, albeit in fictional form. You will want to read this book before taking a short or long visit. Though Russell Bank's experience won't be yours, that is, unless you choose to stay.
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Format: Paperback
An American writer comes to Jamaica with the idea of writing a book. At first he has to know Jamaica better and we accompany him as he discovers this exotic country. He meets many kinds of people from rastafarians to marrons to relatives of Eroll Flynn (The story with Eroll Flynn... incredible!). What a surprising country, unusual people and so an amazing book! A lesson? The writer will tell you it at the end. Hard to be a rich American!
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By rocksteady on September 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
I spent a fair amount of time doing business in Kingston Jamaica in the late 1980s, travelling there about a dozen times in five year period, and my work led me to various places on the island. Even though it was written by an outsider, I have read very few books that really captured the feeling of the place and the people in the way that "The Book of Jamaica" did. I wonder how much of the central character, the American writer, was based on Banks himself?

I loved the atmosphere and plotline of the book, and Banks conveys much of Jamaican culture with great insight and skill. However it was hard for me not to despise the main character, a neurotic American writer who neglects his family to hang out with his fascinating, "exotic" Jamaican friends. An American trying to beat Jamaicans at rum drinking and dominoes is pure foolishness! But it rings true as something a typical American visitor would try to do. Eventually as the central character becomes more involved with the real Jamaica and the lives of his new friends, he gets a lot more than he bargains for. A book well worth reading.
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Format: Paperback
It was interesting to me to read reviews of this book written by Jamaicans or people who have more first-hand knowledge of Jamaica than a beach vacation can provide. This is because, for me, the cultural and political aspects of Jamaican life that were depicted in _The Book of Jamaica_ far outweighed in interest anything about the protagonist/narrator. I found it odd how unable I was to hold the plot involving the expatriot professor in my mind while I was reading. It created an unpleasant effect because his story would occasionally interrupt the story of the Maroon communities and I would remember that there was more than one thing the story was about. The proportions, in this sense, felt wrong to me.
This said, I found the communties and lifestyles described here to be fascinating reading and Banks (at least apparently) wrote with loving respect about the Jamaican culture and people. A nice change from the usual cliche descriptions.
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