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Prospero's Daughter: A Novel Hardcover – February 28, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (February 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345455355
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345455352
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,154,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Nunez (Bruised Hibiscus; Grace) critiques colonialist assumptions about race and class in this ambitious reworking of The Tempest, set in her native Trinidad in the early 1960s. Dr. Peter Gardner (the Prospero figure) arrives on the island with his baby daughter after a botched medical experiment in England made him an outlaw. The novel's Caliban is Carlos, a mixed-race orphan whose house on an outlying island the doctor steals. Gardner teaches the boy biology, astronomy, music—"an exclusively European education," Carlos later reflects—but his natural brilliance far surpasses anything the doctor can impart. Inevitably, Carlos and Gardner's daughter, Virginia (Miranda), fall in love; the doctor, in a paroxysm of rage at the thought of a sexual union between his daughter and a dark-skinned man, accuses Carlos of attempted rape. As the criminal charge is investigated, Nunez reveals Gardner to be the real criminal—not only toward Carlos, but also toward his native servant, Ariana (Ariel), and Virginia herself. With its strong themes and dramatic ironies, this story should speak for itself; Nunez, however, overexplains her material, forecasting plot developments and leaning, at times, toward didacticism. But while her portrait of demonic scientist Gardner remains superficial, readers will find her love story—which has a refreshingly happy ending—very sensitively told. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Through one family's unique circumstances, the always-eloquent Nunez invokes larger themes of race, class, and colonialism. In the late 1950s, mad scientist Peter Gardner flees England to escape charges that he experimented on his patients. He and his young daughter, Virginia, settle on an isolated leper colony off the coast of Trinidad. They soon take over the house of a mixed-race orphan, Carlos, who was left in the care of a dying housekeeper. Gardner imposes a strict regimen on the household; trumpets the superiority of the white race; alternately treats Carlos as a slave and as an experiment by educating him about music, literature, and science; and devotes extraordinary amounts of time to cultivating hybrid flowers. His daughter, Virginia, responds to Carlos'great kindness and patience, and their abiding friendship, carried out in secret, blossoms into a love affair that threatens Gardner's worldview and puts the couple in danger. Although the enthralling story line loses some power in the final section, Nunez has crafted a beautiful, layered novel that echoes both The Tempest and Heart of Darkness. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Elizabeth Nunez immigrated to the US from Trinidad after completing high school there. She is the author of eight novels. Boundaries (PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award and nominated for the 2012 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Fiction); Anna In-Between (long-listed for an IMPAC Dublin International Award and starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal ); Prospero's Daughter (2010 Trinidad and Tobago One Book, One Community selection; New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice, 2006 Florida Center for the Literary Arts One Book, One Community selection, and 2006 Novel of the Year for Black Issues Book Review); Bruised Hibiscus (American Book Award); Discretion (short-listed for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award); Grace; Beyond the Limbo Silence (Independent Publishers Book Award); and When Rocks Dance. Most of Nunez's novels have also been published as audio books, and two are in translation, in Spanish and German. Nunez has also written several monographs of literary criticism published in scholarly journals, and is co-editor of the anthology, Blue Latitudes: Caribbean Woman Writers at Home and Abroad.

Nunez was co-founder of the National Black Writers Conference, which she directed for eighteen years with grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Reed Foundation and the Nathan Cummings Foundation. She was executive producer for the 2004 Emmy nominated CUNY TV series, Black Writers in America. Her awards include 2013 National Council for Research on Women Outstanding Trailblazer Award; 2013 Caribbean American Distinguished Writer Award; 2012 Trinidad and Tobago Lifetime Literary Award; 2011 Barnes and Noble Poets and Writers, Writers for Writers Award. Nunez is a member of several boards, including the Center for Fiction, and CUNY TV. She is a judge for several national and international literary awards, including the Dublin IMPAC International Literary Award, and gives readings of her work across the country and abroad. Nunez received her PhD in English from New York University. She is a Distinguished Professor at Hunter College, the City University of New York, where she teaches creative writing, fiction.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By Amazon Customer on December 9, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I live in Trinidad as an expat and love the history of this book. I wish I was more into shakespeare so I could comment on that part.
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By Parrott on January 3, 2009
Format: Paperback
The story opens in 1961 with a British inspector, at the behest of the commissioner, preparing to discretely investigate a crime. The setting is Trinidad, a country on the cusp of independence from England. This is not such a long time ago; yet, Nunez' modern-day interpretation of The Tempest invokes the mood of the entrenched class-defined society of Shakespeare's time. This quality of timeliness supports the theme of a despot's controlling his victims by dependence and isolation. Nunez writes superbly about Trinidad's colonial history and vividly describes it's geographical details. And, she cleverly parallels her characters to those in The Tempest. However, even with all that, this is not her best work. The strong start begins to flag with overdone descriptions of flora and fauna and insufficient character development. Except for Inspector Mumsford, there are no surprises, no complexities in the characters. The central character, Peter Gardner, a morally corrupt, most twisted scientist never provokes sympathy. The supporting cast of his daughter Virginia, the disenfranchised Carlos and Ariana, the servant-concubine serve as little more than vehicles for Gardner's greed and depravity. Unlike when I read When Rocks Dance, I wanted the Gardner to get his comeuppance, the lovers to live happily ever after and to close the book.
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Format: Paperback
My bookclub read this book and were fortunate enough to have the author's brother join us for our discussion. This gave us the opportunity to aks many questions about the island, customs, traditions, language. It was an excellent book with an accurate description of both the locale and the time during their strive for independence.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ann Ahnemann on July 31, 2008
Format: Paperback
Billed as a modern telling of The Tempest, Nunez hasn't even come close.
This book will give you nightmares and/or ruin your plans to cruise the West Indies, or the appreciation of the Hibiscus blooming so lustily on your deck. Dr. Peter Gardener (get it?), madman to the max. Reading, I could picture Ms. Nunez saying, What more horrible abomination can we dream up for Dr. Gardener to perform?
I didn't get anything of redeeming value from this book. It's not about love, however nobly one tries to conjure it from this book. Prospero's Daughter is a vision of hell on earth. A three because hell was quite well described.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M. Fetler on July 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I opened Elizabeth Nunez book, "Prospero's Daughter," expecting an adaptation of Shakespeare's Tempest. The story happens in the West Indies on an island that houses a leper colony. The British Empire is disintegrating, rotted by past practice of slavery and present day racism. Descriptions of the leper colony, tropical heat, and poisonous insects, foretell trouble.

Nunez drew some plot elements from the Tempest. Although Shakespeare's play unwinds in the Mediterranean, readers may see hints of the West Indies, suggested by Strachey's 1610 report of the shipwreck of the Sea Venture near Bermuda. Shakespeare's island is a brave new world, full of enchantment. The lead role, Prospero, was duke of Milan. Betrayed by his brother, Prospero is banished to an island with his daughter, Miranda. They find the uncultured Caliban (whose name suggests "cannibal" or the "Carib" Indian tribe), son of a witch, and Ariel, a sprite that was imprisoned in a tree by the witch. Ariel becomes Prospero's ethereal servant when he frees her. Caliban teaches Prospero how to survive on the island. In repayment Prospero educates Caliban. When Caliban makes sexual advances toward Miranda, Prospero punishes him. The play's theme is redemption: Prospero reconciles with his brother and Miranda marries his brother's son.

Nunez' counterpart to Prospero is Peter Gardner, a mad genius who arrives on the island with his sweet daughter Virginia, fleeing prosecution for conducting medical experiments on people. A good-hearted native, Carlos Codrington (Caliban) is heir to an island estate. Ariana, a servant, lives on the estate with Carlos and his family. At first offering to help, Peter moves into the house and then takes over. Peter educates Carlos.
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