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Here comes the sun : a novel
2016
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  Recenzja „New York Times”

MONTEGO BAY, the hub of Jamaica's tourist industry, is the setting of "Here Comes the Sun," Nicole Dennis-Benn's first novel. In her opening paragraph, she makes her intention clear: to avert our attention from the opulent hotels to the impoverished neighborhoods of those who depend on tourism for their survival. By day Margot works the front desk at Palm Star Resort. At night "her real work" begins: selling her body to the resort's paying guests. Although economically and socially disadvantaged, Margot is not easily exploited. Dennis-Benn's protagonist is refreshingly brave, clever and ambitious. Margot debases herself to pay for the private education of her younger sister, Thandi. Book-smart and talented, Thandi is the family's only hope of escaping the shabby village of River Bank. As Margot moves between the starkly different worlds of River Bank and the resort, she carries a secret - her love affair with Verdene Moore, a reclusive lesbian whom the people of River Bank view as the Antichrist. Verdene's pink house, "built with real cement," vividly embodies her difference and her vulnerability. Neighbors leave dead animals on her lawn and smear hateful words across her door with animal blood. Margot approaches Verdene's house each night with fear, recalling the brutal killing of other lesbians. Dennis-Benn, born and raised in Jamaica, doesn't exaggerate the threat these lovers face. "Here Comes the Sun" sheds much-needed light on the island's disenfranchised, particularly on the hardships suffered by its L.G.B.T. community. The light radiating from what might otherwise be too bleak a story is Margot's love for her sister. Her hope of providing a better future for Thandi is palpable, an unquenchable fire blazing through the novel, likely to scorch anyone who stands in the way. Thandi herself emerges as a complex, engaging character. In spite of all she has going for her, she lacks self-esteem because she is dark-skinned in a society Dennis-Benn portrays as harrowingly shade-conscious. "Who want to be black like dat in dis place?" asks Miss Ruby, River Bank's unlicensed beautician. Thandi purchases "Queen of Pearl crème," a chemical-ridden bleaching agent, and undergoes Miss Ruby's dangerous skin-lightening procedure, imagining "her blackness peeling off, the hydrogen peroxide Miss Ruby pours into the mixture acting like an abrasive, a medicine for her melancholy." In exposing the flip side of this well-advertised island paradise, Dennis-Benn risks reducing Jamaica's complex society to a false binary - white vs. black, affluent vs. destitute. There are times, too, when inauthentic details undermine the novel's credibility. More than once, Dennis-Benn mentions the "heavy scent of bougainvillea," a gorgeous but essentially odorless flower. And readers familiar with Jamaica will note that the Blue Mountains, located in the east, cannot be seen from any window in Montego Bay. These editorial blind spots, while momentarily disengaging, don't detract from the sincerity of Benn's subject or her skillful handling of the plot. She carefully waits, for instance, to reveal the early trauma that has hardened Margot's heart. HER PROSE IS best when she allows her characters heightened moments of awareness. In a remarkable passage, Margot's mother remembers a bus trip she took to Devon House, the restored great-house of Jamaica's first black millionaire. Something unforeseen happened to her on that trip, and she recalls that on the way back her home looked different: "The sea-green of the nauseating sea, the sneering sun in the wide expanse of a pale sky, the indecisive Y-shaped river that once swallowed her childhood, and even the red dirt from the bauxite mines caked under her worn heels, seemed like a wide-open wound that bled and bled between the rural parishes." Similarly, readers of this important debut will no doubt see Jamaicain anew and different light. MARGARET CEZAIR-THOMPSON is the author of "The True History of Paradise" and "The Pirate's Daughter." She teaches at Wellesley College.

  Recenzja „Publishers Weekly”

A stormy family lives through Jamaica's early 1990s drought in Dennis-Benn's first novel. Delores sells trinkets at a tourist market; her daughter Margot, whom Delores pimped out when Margot was very young, now works as a front desk clerk at a hotel. Margot turns tricks after hours to make extra money to pay her much younger sister Thandi's tuition at a Catholic school. Margot's romantic yearning is directed towards Verdene, a rich woman considered a witch by their village because she is a lesbian. Thandi, the unhappy recipient of her family's hopes, feverishly tries to bleach her skin white and to resist her attraction to her childhood friend Charles, whose poverty would impede her quest for upward mobility. The novel, with its knife fights and baroque blackmail schemes, often threatens to stray from operatic intensity to soap opera melodrama. But Dennis-Benn redeems it with her striking portrayal of a vibrant community where everyone is related and every action reverberates, and her unstinting description of how shame whips desire into submission. (July) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Posumowanie
Capturing the distinct rhythms of Jamaican life and dialect, Nicole Dennis- Benn pens a tender hymn to a world hidden among pristine beaches and the wide expanse of turquoise seas. At an opulent resort in Montego Bay, Margot hustles to send her younger sister, Thandi, to school. Taught as a girl to trade her sexuality for survival, Margot is ruthlessly determined to shield Thandi from the same fate. When plans for a new hotel threaten their village, Margot sees not only an opportunity for her own financial independence but also perhaps a chance to admit a shocking secret: her forbidden love for another woman. As they face the impending destruction of their community, each woman--fighting to balance the burdens she shoulders with the freedom she craves--must confront long-hidden scars. From a much-heralded new writer, Here Comes the Sun offers a dramatic glimpse into a vibrant, passionate world most outsiders see simply as paradise.
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