Saturday, 31 March 2012

Book Review: Jessamine - Eugenia O'Neal

Synopsis - Jessamine tells the story of Grace Hylton, an African-American, who arrives on the Caribbean island of St Crescens full of doubts about her husband's political aspirations, doubts about her marriage and doubts about the wisdom of relocating.  Her native born husband, Julian, has lived most of his adult life in the States but has come back to St Crescens, determined to pull his country out of the cauldron of corruption, nepotism and crime into which the leading political dynasty has taken it.

An architect by training, Julian buys and restores Jessamine, an old Great House.  What the Hylton's don't know is that Jessamine is home to the ghost of Arabella Adams who lived there as a governess during the late 1800's.

Jessamine is told from the alternating viewpoints of the two women - both foreigners, both married to local men. An old injustice binds them across the country that separates them, but can Grace discover its roots before St Crescens is plunged into violence and chaos?

Review -  A wonderful story about political conflict, corruption and racism.  Grace not only faces moving to a  small island after living in America but she has to come to terms with the small-minded community.  Even though Grace is black, she is an outsider and seen as different by the wives of her husband's political party associates and friends.  Even Julian's grandmother is rude to Grace initially until Grace starts to uncover the family history.  Jessamine was owned by the island's British administrator in the 1800's and the house has a history of it's own.  Grace is frightened she has become unwell, when she first  moves in feeling cold, thinking she is imagining a voice and suffering from sudden headaches.  Once Grace comes to terms that the house ghost is trying to communicate with her, she embarks on a mission to not only find out the family history but also what happened to her invisible companion and her family.  When Grace starts to turn up certain information, it brings the past into the present.  A gripping read. 4*

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