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The book of Jamaica Unknown Binding – 1980


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Product Details

  • Unknown Binding: 326 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (1980)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0006DX0Z8
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"A compelling novel....Banks achieves effects at once beautiful and brutal. A virtuoso performance." -- --Publishers Weekly --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

RUSSELL BANKS is the author of poetry, nonfiction, and more than fifteen works of fiction admired for their realism and portrayal of working-class people. Cloudsplitter and Continental Drift were both finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His work has been translated into twenty languages and has received numerous international prizes. Two of his novels, The Sweet Hereafter and Affliction, have been made into award-winning films. A member of the International Parliament of Writers and former New York State Author, Banks was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1996. He lives in upstate New York. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 40 people found the following review helpful 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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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Dr Lawrence Hauser on August 30, 2000
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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 2, 2001
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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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 31, 1999
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful 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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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.

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