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The Family Mansion Paperback – May 7, 2013

4.6 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"In God Carlos and The Family Mansion, Anthony Winkler, the master storyteller, has provided us with texts of both narrative quality and historical substance that should find place in the annals of Caribbean literature."
--SX Salon

"Winkler never glosses over Jamaican deprivation, prejudice, and violence, yet the love of language--and the language of love--somehow conquers all. It's almost as if P.G. Wodehouse had strolled into the world of Bob Marley . . . Winkler's fiction magics the island into a place of rough-edged enchantment."
--The Independent (UK)

"Winkler may be the best novelist you've never heard of. He continues the brilliant, irreverent recasting of Europe's colonization of Jamaica…Winkler tells a story seeped in satire, sex and humor. Another textbook example of fine fiction writing."
--Atlanta Magazine

"Witty, humorous, and full of interesting predicaments, this is a wonderful human interest story."
--Historical Novel Review

"A complicated character study and darkly comedic look at early 19th-century plantation life."
--Historical Novel Society

"Mr. Winkler has written an amusing, at times satirical novel, while touching on important historical aspects, such as human rights, slavery, and colonization…I would recommend this book, especially to those who enjoy historical fiction."
--Turn the Page Reviews

"Set in the 19th century, the Jamaican-born author’s lyrical and engaging novel transports readers to his native country’s sugar cane plantations in the tumultuous years before the abolition of slavery."
--Arts ATL (Included in “Beach reads: a half-dozen best bets for summer from Atlanta authors”)

"The Family Mansion is an intensely charming book that is truly laugh-out-loud funny from cover to cover. It is both smart and witty, full of sophisticated surprises, great insights and very unique historical perspectives. It delves heavily into philosophy and really entertains. This is not the type of novel with which you will easily get bored. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys wonderful writing, great humor, or human interest stories."
--Book Reporter

"The Family Mansion is a little bit story, a little bit rollicking history lesson and a little bit philosophical treatise…well written with a tastefully applied zing of humor in just the right places."
--Sacramento Book Review

"It's a special kind of happiness, when the first bits of a novel deliver a thrill, and The Family Mansion by Anthony C. Winkler does just that."
--The Denver Post

"Winkler proves his salt, daring to weave slices of British and Jamaican history, and slavery's savagery on to a blaring tale that already stood on its own. He picks his spots. His timing is meticulous, narrating a history of woe with an effortless joie de vivre."
--The Gleaner (Jamaica)

"Highly recommended, especially if you want to read some historical fiction that doesn't feature corset-bound women swooning and jumped-up wankers twatting around on horses and smoking cigars. A refreshing read."

"Every country (if she's lucky) gets the Mark Twain she deserves, and Winkler is ours, bristling with savage Jamaican wit and heart-stopping compassion."
--Marlon James, author of The Book of Night Women

"With Hartley's point of view as its primary focus, the narrative transports readers to exotic lands, simultaneously exploring the brutality of England's slavery-based colonization."
--Celticlady's Reviews

About the Author

Anthony C. Winkler was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1942 and is widely recognized as one of the island’s finest and most hilarious exports. His first novel, The Painted Canoe, was published in 1984 to critical acclaim. This was followed by The Lunatic (1987; Akashic Books, 2007), which was turned into a feature film, then The Great Yacht Race (1992), Going Home to Teach (1995), The Duppy (1997), Dog War (2007), and God Carlos (2012). He lives with his wife in Atlanta, Georgia.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Akashic Books; First Printing edition (May 7, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1617751669
  • ISBN-13: 978-1617751660
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #984,410 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By The Barefoot Photographer TOP 100 REVIEWER on April 28, 2013
Format: Paperback
As is usual, I received this book for free through the kind consideration of a GoodReads giveaway. Despite this kindness, I'll give my candid opinions below.

Our protagonist is the second son of an English aristocrat. The inheritance laws of the day state clearly that as second-born, when his father the Duke dies, he won't get so much as a farthing. It is from this position of impending penniless that our hero approaches his life. After a brief and unsuccessful attempt to wrestle the estate from his older brother, he finds himself on a Jamaican sugar cane plantation in 1805, home of brutal slavery, yellow fever and more than a few lessons about how the world works for those without silver spoons firmly clasped in their newborn palates.

Winkler's novel has a lot to recommend it. For one thing, Winkler isn't afraid to give his readers a bit of a history lesson in the midst of his narrative. At various points, a educations in primogeniture, yellow fever, dueling and aristocratic honor are provided in a very tidy and succinct manner. Those not firmly aware of their 19th century history need not fear. Our author also isn't afraid to take on some heady issues from human rights (which were certainly in flux at the time) to classism (is our nabob really all that much better than the man he bought for 50 pounds?). He does all this in an almost effortlessly easy to digest manner; there are a lot of ideas packaged into a very slick and palatable pill...

... but my only real complaint, I suppose, is that this pill is sometimes too slick. His dialog can at times be anachronistic and his situations too easily resolved. This is not the typically dense and complex historical novel one tends to find in this genre. Instead it is rather glossy and a very quick and light read.
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Format: Paperback
Under laws of primogeniture, lords and ladies of 19th-century Britain passed expanses of wealth exclusively to first-born sons while others received little financial support. But as adults, silver-spoon-fed children were encouraged to uphold the image of privilege anyhow, guided by the relentless whisper of a gentleman's conscience that ensured no one was ever free to conduct oneself in any natural or different way than tradition would present, essentially boiling down to a nation's belief of inherent class superiority and entitlement in all things. Often the second-born's search for an occupation took him to fairer shores. This leads to the subject of Anthony C. Winkler's fabulous entertaining satire: the British occupation of Jamaica.

The setting is Jamaica's sugar plantations, and the protagonist is a twentysomething named Hartley Fudges, a laughable fellow who might even be likable if he weren't inherently selfish. His creed being "all for one" and being the second-born, Hartley must depend on his own resources and cleverness for any future. Lacking real-life skills or work ethic, he feels completely entitled to seduce or connive his way into any future that will provide money, so his first move is to seduce a wealthy widow. That failing, he moves quickly to his next inspired idea: to murder his brother using the gentleman's ideal against himself, the code that a wealthy man must defend his honor in the case of any sleight by a fellow gentleman. When the assassination fails, Hartley is miserably ejected from England, his brother demanding his removal, which necessitates Hartley's voyage to Jamaica. This is the place that becomes his home.
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Format: Paperback
In 19th century England, the aristocracy were compelled to follow primogeniture laws, where first born sons inherited all the family wealth and second or subsequent born sons were left to find other means to scrape out a living without family financial support. Despite this, these sons were still expected to uphold social morals and values. Many travelled to the colonies to start new lives.

In the novel, THE FAMILY MANSION, second born son, Hartley Fudges, is faced with the dilemma of how to support himself. The easiest way to gain wealth would be to seduce and then marry a young wealthy widow. When this fails, he attempts to murder his elder brother with disastrous results. His plot is discovered and his father exiles him to Jamaica. There, on a sugar plantation, Hartley must learn to manage not only the daily operations, but slaves and their forced labour. In this land of contrasts, slave vs master, black vs white, poor vs rich, Hartley seeks to adapt, hoping to find contentment and happiness.

As a native of Jamaica, the author is able to weave intricate historical and environmental details which lend authenticity to this satire. The novel is charming, filled with accurate facts, and gives precious insight into a way of life long abandoned. The characters are vividly portrayed, their actions cleverly touching upon the readers' emotions because of their heart-wrenching predicaments and/or sometimes laugh-out-loud antics. It is written in an easy to read prose. Witty, humorous, and full of interesting predicaments, this is a wonderful human interest story.
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