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Red Island House: A Novel

av Andrea Lee

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
345561,207 (3.8)1

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Visar 5 av 5
A complex set of stories woven into a narrative about love, marriage, culture, race and caste. Lee does her readers the honor of not explicitly telling us what to think. Instead, she shows how intricately tied together people can be, and how where we came from does not always dictate where we belong. ( )
  Perednia | Apr 10, 2021 |
This mesmerizing book opens as Shay Gilliam, a Black American intellectual married to Senna a tycoon Italian businessman, and unwilling mistress of the Red House, a sprawling big house and household in Madagascar, is following her Malagasy housekeeper to a conjurer to lift an evil spell on her house.

This quietly powerful book, told through a series of incisive and vividly written vignettes/anecdotes, presents a narrative arch spanning a twenty year-period exploring cultural and identity collisions between and within the Indigenous population and the Europeans in this neocolonial society.

While Shay is not always present in the vignettes, she is always hovering as an observer, as she tries to reconcile the rifts in her marriage, her identity as being a “mistress” to a “plantation” house, the cost of being an outsider and the higher cost of belonging to the privileged class and the history as a Black woman in Africa.

I appreciated all the wonderful historical and cultural details of the Malagasy world, and how the people live with dignity as they and their country become a fetish exotic adventure destination for others.

This is an eloquent and elegant introspective read as the topics of identity expectations and being the life you want, how to enjoy your success yet still honoring your ancestry, and how survival is knowing your worth and the making the best with what you have to offer are presented from a fresh perspective on cultural collisions and the dualities and multiplicities that exist within us. ( )
  bookmuse56 | Mar 22, 2021 |
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

I couldn’t have loved this book more, although (no spoilers) it broke my heart.

The story follows a young couple, - Shay, an African-American scholar, and Senna, her wealthy Italian entrepreneurial husband, - as they build and periodically vacation in an extravagant villa and property in the unspoiled paradise of the African isle of Madagascar.

The author has a gorgeous command of language, and within the first few pages, I was instantly transported to a vivid and exotic land, where:

🖊” in the light soaked stillness of the hottest noontime hour, mongrel dogs lie flat as puddles in patches of shade”.

🖊” the land formation is dazzlingly, virginally green, as if it is the first time that color has been used on earth.”

🖊”the long curve of empty coral beach, is white and perfect as a fresh slice of apple”

🖋”(visitors) are dizzied by the infinite possibilities of using First World money in a Third World country, one of the poorest on earth.

🖋”the first caress of tropical air like an infant’s hand on the face”

It doesn’t take too long for complex and interesting themes to begin to emerge.

The novel spans decades, with each chapter feeling like a self-contained short story, introducing us to new and beautifully rendered characters whose lives, loves, losses and adventures, feel less and less strange the more we become absorbed deep into the fabric of this book and the all-encompassing pull of the magical Madagascar setting.

Gradually it becomes clear that this is a novel about power, about entitlement, about rich sojourners, taking over (or so they believe), through the mastery and exploitation of new territories, leveraging whomever and whatever opportunities present themselves. An age-old theme.

However, as the story plays out through the lives of the protagonists Shay and Senna, it becomes clear that rather than simply rolling over and allowing dominance- homelands that are mired in history, in the deep-rootedness, culture, and connection to the land experienced by all their native peoples, rise up in unexpected ways to have a profound and inescapable effect over the lives of all involved. Most definitely including the interlopers.

This is a brilliant book that I will think about for a long while.

A big thank you to NetGalley; the publisher, Simon and Schuster Canada; and the author, Andrea Lee for an advance review copy of this book. All thoughts presented are my own. ( )
  porte01 | Mar 20, 2021 |
I admit I was drawn to this novel for its setting - the idea of Madagascar as a topical idyll is seductive and parts of this book challenge that conception while others lean into the perceived otherness of the island nation. Overall, it makes for an interesting novel, but I was frustrated by the structure, which felt more like a series of short stories rather than a novel. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Dec 18, 2020 |
I received an advance copy of this book from Scribners publishing. Thank you.
I found this book interesting. Shay, an African American, intellectual woman, marries Senna and older Italian man. He builds this dream vacation home in Madagascar, which she is to be the mistress of the house. Immediately she struggles to find her place here. Initially the foreman undermined everything she did. With the help from Bertine, her housekeeper and a local spiritual healer, she gains peace in the home. From then on and for the next 20 years, Shay struggles to find what her place is there, and in Italy. Being a wealthy, educated woman in Madagascar, puts her in a position of authority which puts her at odds with how she was brought up. Now she has a house full of Black staff, what does that make her? How is she different from the whites in America and elsewhere, who live in comfort at the discomfort of others? Also, since Madagascar is a vacation place, she sees over and over how white men come for vacation, and young Madagascar women are there for hire. It is accepted there, who is she to tell them they shouldn't make money that way, yet why is that their only option? The story tells of her conflicts. ( )
  cjyap1 | Dec 8, 2020 |
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