Book Review: Reach for a Different Sun by Jenni O’Connor

Reach for a Different Sun by Jennifer O'ConnorLet’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?


About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

8 Responses to Book Review: Reach for a Different Sun by Jenni O’Connor

  1. Suzanne says:

    I am adding this to my to-read list, it sounds good.
    Have you read Small Island by Andrea Levy? That is one of my all time favorites.

    • Leeswammes says:

      No, I haven’t Suzanne. I’ll look it up immediately. Thanks for the recommendation.

      • ‘Small Island’ is a fantastic book, you are bound to enjoy it… and many thanks for taking the time to read and review ‘Reach for a Different Sun”, I do appreciate you were in a funny position, reviewing it as a book written by a friend of a friend :).

      • Leeswammes says:

        Jenni, thanks for commenting. I hope you’re busy writing a next book! Thanks for the recommendation of Small Island.

      • Jenni OConnor says:

        Once my little girl starts school 😉

  2. I didn’t know you had a new challenge: reading as many books from writers with the name O’Connor (Jenni & Joseph).
    Talking about Andrea Levy: I’ve read her book THE LONG SONG & it’s also recommandable.
    It tells the story of the last turbulent years of slavery and the early years of freedom in nineteenth-century Jamaica. But I guess you’re not looking for an overdose of Jamaica.

  3. Laurie C says:

    Glad you took a chance and it turned out well! I can understand why you were a little nervous about it.

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