- Series: Caribbean Modern Classics
- Paperback: 324 pages
- Publisher: Peepal Tree Press Ltd.; New edition (December 15, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1845231023
- ISBN-13: 978-1845231026
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,170,871 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Flying Fish Whispered (Caribbean Modern Classics) New Edition
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"A Flying Fish whispered" is set in the fictional island of St. Celia, with a chapter set in the also fictional Parham Island, both Dominica and Antigua respectively (although, apparently, Parham was the initial name of Antigua when discovered). Like the blurb on the back cover states, the novel starts with the meeting of Teresa and Derek. Their encounter is "love at first sight", or better said: "passion at first sight", which, considering it was written in 1938, I think makes the novel ahead of its time.
Teresa is a woman in her 30's, but despite the setting and the time, she is described as a woman who is not tormented by having sexual needs. Her attraction to Derek is mainly physical, and I really liked how she embraces her sexuality in a normal way (as it should have always been). Derek has come with his wife from Parham Island, and the moment he sees Teresa, he also feels physically attracted to her. His wife is a cold woman, more devoted to saving and working than loving and living, which drives Teresa and Derek to consider their relationship as lovers as justified.
After their flirtatious meetings, due to a death in Teresa's house, their passion takes a different turn, and this is when the book starts exploring the consequences of colonialism and the characteristics of Caribbean life on the island. Teresa and Derek's relationship is interlaced with the life of locals in St. Celia. What drives the local people, their strong sense of being part of nature rather than owning it, and their beliefs.
Something that I found refreshing about "A Flying Fish Whispered" is its subtle humor similar to that of a period drama. Elma Napier was from Scotland, so I guess that explains it. I cannot say that I laughed, but some of the situations throughout the novel put a smile upon my face on more than one occasion. Dramas throughout the novel are never approached too seriously, except that of Parham island and Teresa's cook, and this removes what could be considered silly or dated about some situations. Humor is also used to deal with the incoherences and carelessness of the "civilized Empire" that controls the West Indies.
In my opinion, there is more to this novel beyond the love and Caribbean dramas. Teresa's personality is like that of St. Celia: lush, inebriating and alive. While Derek's personality is like that of Parham Island: dry, lonely and needing the tropical storm that is Teresa. Derek also represents colonialism, while Teresa represents the untamed nature of an island before the arrival of "civilization".
However, in my humble opinion, an excess of some of its virtues are also its flaws. At times, descriptions seem to put the plot on hold. They are in fact beautiful to read, but they felt like when the best part of a film on TV comes and then the channel stops it to go on a commercial break. I felt they were stalling rather than helping the plot. Also, a couple of metaphors are used to exhaustion here and there. In addition, the chapter when Teresa and her brother visit Parham Island is, in my opinion, not well justified. To be honest, I didn't understand quite well why they visited Parham Island. The chapter is beautifully written and the sense of hopelessness and desolation leaves you feeling like Parham Island itself, but its reason to be seemed forced and abrupt. It seemed to have happened more because Ms. Napier needed it than because the natural course of the plot took Teresa and her brother there.
I have seen many pictures of Dominica and Ms. Napier's descriptions of St. Celia match the beautiful images that I have seen. Or perhaps her descriptions came alive because of the images that I have seen? I don't know. All in all, reading "A Flying Fish Whispered" felt like spending a couple of days in the mountains or on a virgin island away from the clueless, man-made and material-driven civilization.
It is written in a easy readable and pleasant style. Our heroine thinks and speaks like an emancipated woman.
Unfortunately the names of the islands and places have been given fictional names. That was not necessary and takes away from the accurate descriptions.
The real let down is the cover of this edition. It depicts a young local girl while it should be a somewhat older English woman with black hair and blue eyes. I was waiting all the time for the young lady on the cover to appear in the text but she never did.