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First published in 1938, Elma Napier’s A Flying Fish Whispered is both of its age, and way ahead of it. To some extent, it’s a sexually-charged tale of doomed love between two white plantation people in the colonial tropics. But to see it solely as such is to do Napier an injustice, for this novel also tingles with the author’s environmentalism, and delivers a critique of colonial rule, demonstrating divisions between white plantation owners and workers who are exploited, disregarded and treated as an underclass. And all this is delivered with an undercurrent of proto-feminism through the character of witty, outspoken Teresa. Teresa also gives voice to the author’s deep love of her adopted home. Born in Scotland, Napier devoted her life to Dominica, becoming the first woman elected to any Caribbean council after settling on the island in 1932, and her autobiography also comes highly recommended - Black and White Sands takes readers on an entertaining journey through an exceptional, unique life. In this novel, an elemental connection to the island’s nature, and to the environment, is fabulously expressed by Teresa when she remarks, “I love the forest, you see, and the mystery of never knowing what’s round the next corner.” And then the author adds, “Everywhere, the world over, men have cut forests that they snatch food from the soil; and now the soil flees from them.” Seminal stuff, indeed. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers.
Elma Napier's Black and White Sands (Papillote Press) is one of my favourite books of all time. It's the enthralling autobiography of a Scottish-born aristocrat who in 1932 abandoned the trappings and vacuity of high society for a dramatically different new life in the wildly majestic Caribbean island of Dominica. Like the island, Elma's spirit is indomitable (indeed, she was the first woman to sit in a West Indian parliament), her voice witty and engaging as she recounts the trials and tribulations, the joys and jubilations she and her husband experienced while building their home and new lives on their beloved adopted island: With Dominica we fell in love at first sight, an infatuation without tangible rhyme or reason, yet no more irrational than any other falling in love. Sublime. From our Best Autobiographies Ever Blog Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers.