In Smyth's enchanting debut, set in Black Rock, Tobago, young protagonist Celia D'Abadie searches for traces of her absent lineage-the mother who died in childbirth and the white father reputed to live in England. Raised by her aunt Tassi in the shadow of fear cast by her lecherous uncle, Roman, Celia is given a prophetic glimpse into her future from Mrs. Jeremiah, the village seer. At 16, Celia flees after Roman rapes her, and en route to Trinidad, she meets William Shamiel. Under the guidance of William's family, Celia secures a job working as a maid for Dr. Emmanuel Rodriguez, his fragile English wife, Helen, and their two children. Celia moves into their dysfunctional home and balances relationships with two men vying for her affection. As Celia and her employer become closer, Helen's dramatic descent into madness becomes more apparent. While the story line-naïve boonies dweller moves to big city and learns about life and love-has been done a million times, Smyth's deftly captured tropical landscape and superstitions are enough of a tweak to keep things interesting. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Set in verdant Trinidad-Tabago as the islands emerge from colonialism, this debut by Irish-Trinidadian Smyth (published as Black Rock in the U.K.) presents the tragic story of a girl's exploitation and dashed hopes. Smyth's lyrical prose captures the fresh, young voice of teenaged Celia, whose observant eye registers both the beauty and the poverty of her surroundings. Celia is unlucky: her mother died when Celia was born, and her father, she has been told, was an errant seaman who has returned to Southampton, England. She is raised by her mother's sister Tassi, who eventually marries the abusive Roman. After Roman beats and rapes her, Celia flees to the capital city, Port of Spain, on the neighboring island, and secures employment as a maid for a prominent doctor and his familya move that proves to be her downfall. VERDICT This is a classic story of seduction and abandonment, but Celia's persona is so strong and sympathetic that the reader is convinced she will escape her fate. Eventually, she learns that her heritage is more complex than she imagined. A great beach read; highly recommended for all readers of popular fiction.Reba Leiding, James Madison Univ. Libs., Harrisonburg, VA
"The Caribbean's tropical sights and smells permeate Smyth's moving debut novel, but all is not paradise…Smyth paints a vivid portrait of a naive young girl who learns some hard truths about herself and her family, but though Celia's story is not always happy, it's arresting and powerful, a shining testament to human resilience.“
—The Miami Herald
"Like Alice Walker, Smyth vividly and empathetically re-creates the gender and racial tensions in a culture’s past, making them newly relevant. Smyth is so attuned to the texture and flavor of Caribbean life, and she mimics the island patois so well.”
“[An] enchanting debut….Smyth’s deftly captured tropical landscape and superstitions….keep things interesting.”
"A remarkably assured debut, written in a controlled yet vibrant and beautiful prose that makes as much of the heart-stopping landscape of Trinidad as it does the cast of characters who inhabit the novel. A worthy relative of Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea."
– Mslexia magazine
“Smyth writes entrancingly on tropical heat and light, indolence, vengeance and desire.”
– The Guardian
“Smyth is Irish-Trinidadian, and her writing is as lushly beautiful as the landscape she describes - it's the kind of novel that leaves your head filled with gorgeous pictures.”
– Times (London)
Certain novels are alive with color. Written in lush, lyrical language evocative of its tropical setting, Amanda Smyth's Lime Tree Can’t Bear Orange is awash with bougainvillea, parakeets, blue crabs, manicous, rum, coconuts and obeah folk magic...Smyth's debut is an absorbing and morally complex read with a bittersweet twist at the end.
– Financial Times
“A captivating read.”
– Irish Times
“Compelling…it sings with life, texture, and verve.”
— Daily Mail
“[An] engaging debut…the prose sways along through an exotic landscape of swamp crabs, magic charms, breadfruit trees, Frangipani, Bay Rum and Calypso music.”
– Harper’s Bazaar UK
“Amanda Smyth's debut novel is an intricately told tale about the search for belonging and love…Smyth's beautifully vivid descriptions of lush plantations, glistening horizons and wide, open bays draw you into Celia's journey…Stunning and moving.”
“Smyth is a skilful ventriloquist; the local patois is energetically conjured, and the narrative pace is gripping. In painterly images, Smyth evocatively shows more than she tells...a vivid and compelling story.”