A delightful Sunday afternoon. What could be better than after a hearty family brunch, curling up with a good book and reading until mid-afternoon? And especially when you "discover" a writer who has been on your radar, but you haven't read most of her work.
Last Sunday, I decided to put my money where my mouth was by supporting a fellow Jamaican/Caribbean writer. For if discoverability will continue to be the main challenge for Caribbean writers, especially with the advent of e-publishing, I figured that if I liked the work, then I would do my best to spread the word. So, I downloaded a copy of Hazel Campbell's e-book, My Darling You, curled up with my iPad on the sofa, and marveled at the sheer mastery that Ms. Campbell displayed in her new collection.
Setting the tone with a poem, "Our Antillean ark/ painted Carib blue/ charts ancient unknown waves/ even to the center of the storm," the six stories, with the exception of "The Santa Picture," are set in Jamaica and live up to the description on the Amazon web site: "Six short stories set in the Caribbean, loosely linked around the theme of love."
The stories in My Darling You are engaging in their deft development of character, use of dialogue, and adept handling of plot. But there's more. They also give the reader a brief glimpse into the lives of characters who have been changed by love while skillfully exploring Jamaican attitudes toward sexuality ("Emancipation Park) and the influence of the church on the romantic decisions of its members ("First Love").
But wait, there's even more. Hidden between the layers of realism and social commentary there's a delightful fable, "The Jamaican Princess," a story about a sleeping princess in the land of Jamrock, who after many years awakens to the misery that her years of slumber have created. Of course, there is the requisite charming prince (who is unlike any other Prince Charming you've read about) who rouses the princess's compassion for her people and two scheming priests, Bongojai and Congojai, who oppose the princess's plans to undo the damage caused by her neglect.
I won't give away the rest of the plot, except to say that I've learned something from My Darling You. Instead of putting together the equivalent of a two hundred-page collection, wouldn't it be better, as Ms. Campbell has done, to assemble stories that could according to Poe's advice, "be read in one sitting"?
You may be on to something here, Ms. Campbell. I can't wait to see what you'll do next.
About Hazel Campbell
Hazel Campbell was born in Jamaica in 1940. She attended Merl Grove High School and obtained a BA in English & Spanish at UWI, Mona, followed by Diplomas in Mass Communications and Management Studies. She has worked as a teacher, as a public relations worker, editor, features writer and video producer for the Jamaican Information Service, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Creative Production and Training Centre. From 1987 she has worked as a freelance Communications Consultant.
Her first publication was The Rag Doll & Other Stories (Savacou, 1978), followed by Women's Tongue: a collection of eight short stories, (Savacou, 1985). Her stories have also been published in West Indian Stories, ed. John Wickham, 1981; Caribanthology I, ed. Bruce St. John, 1981; Focus 1983; Verre Wereld; and Facing the Sea, ed. Anne Walmesley, 1986.
She writes of herself: 'Child of the 1940s when nationalism was raising its head in Jamaica, I attended schools where patriotism and budding political movements were regarded as extremely important. In spite of the pervasive use of foreign texts, we were encouraged to think Jamaican.
This consciousness has remained with me to the extent that I get physically uncomfortable if I am away from Jamaica for too long a time. Perhaps that's why I never migrated and why my work reflects almost a "romantic" view of Jamaica - its people, landscape and the very peculiar aura which makes it difficult to understand; difficult to live in; but nevertheless such an enchanting country.'
Hazel Campbell lives in Constance Spring. She has four children.
Visit Hazel Campbell's blogs:
If you enjoyed this post, check out my page on Amazon. I’d also be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook.
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