By Kerry Young
A richly imagined, wholly engrossing and utterly captivating novel that tells the remarkable history of twentieth century Jamaica as seen through the eyes of Pao, a Chinese-Jamaican racketeerTweet
The life and times of Pao, a Chinese boy whose mother is invited to move to Jamaica by the “godfather” of Chinatown. Pao is groomed to take over this role. Set in Jamaica’s recent and troubled past, this book is both informative and interesting – personally I knew nothing about the country and even less about what it is like to live there on an everyday basis. This book goes quite a long way to painting a picture of an island that inspires great passion and loyalty from the people who inhabit it. It also depicts the legacy of colonisation and the damage caused by outside interference in a country’s economy and politics for financial gain. How accurate any of this is I have no way of knowing. Despite the fact that the novel is written in dialect, not one of my favourite gadgets, I think it works in this instance as it is easy to understand and does not therefore detract from the content of the book.
Whilst hardly a thrill a minute, this book does hold your interest and moves along at a reasonable pace. Cultural differences may make the characters a bit inaccessible at times but on the whole I think that the author did a good job of describing their attitudes and lifestyles in a way that made them seem real. However, although I cared what happened to Pao, I found that many of the other characters just blurred into one amorphous mass and I was often having trouble differentiating one from the other.
I am glad I have read this book as I now know far more about Jamaica than I did before. It was a little too confusing to be a great book and the characters could be developed further but it is worth a read.