Book Review: Reach for a Different Sun by Jenni O’Connor
January 6, 2013 8 Comments
Let’s start with a disclosure: a good friend of mine is a friend of the author of this book. She asked me to read and review it and give it some publicity. My first thought: Tricky! I am given a book that I have not chosen myself (you know how picky I can be) and I almost know the author (I have not met her but my friend sometimes talks about her).
On the positive side, it was awarded “ABNA Quarter Finalist” (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award). Even so, I wasn’t sure I’d like the book and left it for a good half year before I decided to get on with it. And maybe you can guess how it went: I actually enjoyed this book a lot.
Reach for a Different Sun: What it is about
From Amazon: “Reach for a Different Sun is a complex tale of love, truth, identity, self-discovery and betrayal which shuttles between Jamaica and London, from the turbulent 70s to the present day. When retired Jamaican campaigner and lobbyist Mary Odell dies suddenly, her niece, Monique a London-based journalist suspects foul play. Her misgivings lead her deep into the murky waters of Jamaica’s turbulent past, opening up a Pandora s box of atrocities dating back to the 1970s, when the country was caught in a vicious armed power struggle between opposing factions.
As Monique battles to come to terms with her loss and make sense of her aunt’s death, there are powerful forces at work trying to thwart her, protecting a secret, which if uncovered, would change the course of history in Jamaica and put her in grave danger. But she is prepared to risk her life to expose the perpetrators, for therein lies a greater truth about herself and her roots…”
Reach for a Different Sun: What I thought
Books about Jamaicans in England are rare and I loved how this book featured this minority. Most of the book takes place in Jamaica but during the course of the story the reader learns not only about life on this island, currently and in the past, but also about the generation that emigrated to England and the situation they found themselves in.
Monique was rather quick in suspecting something fishy about her aunt’s death, but other than that, I found this a very good read. In particular, I loved the accents, yes, I could almost hear them! The accented speech was only present every now and then, but enough to remind me of where the story took place and the people involved. For instance, “Who you visiting, ma’am? [...] Give I a dollar I see he all right.” I was reminded (rightly or wrongly) of Pirates of the Caribbean‘s voodoo princess Tia Dalma‘s beautiful Jamaican accent and that gave the book an extra dimension for me. Only: there was a Devon Jones in the story, and being reminded of Pirates anyway, I had the immediate association with captain Davy Jones, which I could not shake off again.
The story takes Monique to different people on Jamaica while the reader also gets taken back into the past on some occasions. As she digs deeper in her aunt’s pursuits from the months before she died, she is being threatened and she finds herself in dangerous situations. Although there is a political aspect to this mystery, it is not too strong and doesn’t dominate the story. The mystery of her aunt’s death was not hugely interesting for me but in combination with the people and the place, it made a good read.
Rating: 4 (out of 5)
Number of pages: 360
First published: 2011
I got this book: from a friend
Genre: contemporary fiction
Have you read this book?
What did you think?