Review: Fruit of the Lemon by Andrea Levy
Blurb from Amazon:
Faith Jackson knows little about her parents’ lives before they moved to England. Happy to be starting her first job in the costume department at BBC television, and to be sharing a house with friends, Faith is full of hope and expectation. But when her parents announce that they are moving “home” to Jamaica, Faith’s fragile sense of her identity is threatened. Angry and perplexed as to why her parents would move to a country they so rarely mention, Faith becomes increasingly aware of the covert and public racism of her daily life, at home and at work.
At her parents’ suggestion, in the hope it will help her to understand where she comes from, Faith goes to Jamaica for the first time. There she meets her Aunt Coral, whose storytelling provides Faith with ancestors, whose lives reach from Cuba and Panama to Harlem and Scotland. Branch by branch, story by story, Faith scales the family tree, and discovers her own vibrant heritage, which is far richer and wilder than she could have imagined.
I was required to read this novel for my British literature class. I’m being honest because let’s face it, I would not have picked this novel up voluntarily. The blurb doesn’t captivate me and neither did the story.
The main character is Faith Campbell who literally knows nothing about her Jamaican heritage. Adding to her personality is the fact that she is super naïve about racism in England. The fact that people discriminate against her based on skin color is a complete shocker to Faith to the point that it is unrealistic. She is not shelter enough to not have experience it beforehand. She lives in the city and with people who are not her race so she must have experience it.
She does go to Jamaica but how it helps still leaves baffles. Basically, her trip to Jamaica consists of eating sugar cane for the first time and learning about her family through stories. She does not actively participate in her culture nor does she experience it. All she hears are stories about family members that are dead. It’s a really complicated family tree where you literally need the family tree in the back of the book to read it. All of sudden, she understands her heritage and accepts her Jamaica-ness. She has discover herself and accepts herself through stories that don’t directly impact her. If only it was that simple in real life.
The first part of the book which takes place in England, that is where the story is the best. She is experiencing racism first hand and it is emotional turmoil because of it. It would have made her character stronger if she had discovered a Jamaican community in England instead of running away to Jamaica where nothing interesting happens. In England, that’s where the interesting characters are. There is Ruth who is a Jamaican girl raised by white parents and is one the biggest source of discomfort to Faith. Ruth was raised by white parents and she is more Jamaican (in Faith’s view) than Faith who was actually raised by Jamaican parents. That particular relationship would have been wonderful to explore.
This novel is not for me because I could not relate to Faith at all. How can someone be that naïve when people are being racist towards her? I feel Jamaica did nothing for her but Faith learned her lesson. OK…
29th in the 150+ Reading Challenge
Also qualifies for: Where are you reading?- Jamaica