INDIGO Misc. Supplies – Oct 27 1992
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From Publishers Weekly
The award-winning British novelist ( The Lost Father ) and feminist critic ( Monuments and Maidens ) produces a tour de force with this lavishly imaginative and sophisticated work. Invading and colonizing The Tempest , she restores Sycorax, Shakespeare's "blue-eyed hag," to power on an indigo-producing Caribbean island at the time of its 17th-century "discovery" by the British. While Prospero remains unidentified, Caliban and Ariel are her foster children; Miranda is born three centuries later in WW II London, a descendant of the island's British conqueror. But invasion--literary, political, sexual--constitutes only one of many themes. An epigraph, from Derek Walcott's Omeros , begins, "Men take their colors as the trees do from their native soil"; this novel's sections, named after colors (like the novel itself), take their hues from Warner's ineffably sensuous descriptions of the island, suggesting a non-chronological approach to historical narrative--the indigo-stained Sycorax's way of seeing. Into this already lush ground, Warner introduces the gripping, cannily rendered story of Miranda and her attempts to address a problematic psychological legacy and to participate in establishing a new order. Consistently inventive, complex in its implications, this is an altogether dazzling achievement. (Richard Wiley's novel Indigo , published by Dutton, is reviewed in this issue.)
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Kirkus Reviews
From British writer Warner (The Lost Father, 1989, etc.), an uneven--if politically correct--reinterpretation of The Tempest that's weighed down even further by heavy-handed dollops of magic realism. When the young and second wife of her distinguished grandfather, Sir Anthony Everard, gives birth to beautiful Xanthe, Miranda, a child herself, hears an old princess at the christening wish upon the baby a ``kind of imperviousness--the heartlessness of a statue.'' Having neatly indicated mythic and legendary undertones, the story then moves back to the 17th century--to the Caribbean island where the Everard family made its fortune in indigo and sugar. There, island sorceress Sycorax miraculously rescues a baby from a drowned slave, establishes her own compound at the end of the island where she grows indigo, and advises the islanders. The baby, the original Caliban, is soon joined by another outcast, an Arawak baby girl called Ariel. Eventually, Caliban, haunted by his African roots, leaves--but Ariel stays, only to be seduced by the first Kit Everard come to claim the island for his own. Their Eden threatened, the islanders rebel, a now-returned Caliban is killed, and Everard and his men are saved by a fluke. Forward, then, to the 20th century when Xanthe and Miranda, different in temperament and experience, are invited to the island to celebrate the anniversary of the first Everard landing. Xanthe makes a marriage of convenience and sets about restoring the family fortunes through tourism, but the islanders resent her efforts. A revolt breaks out; Xanthe, who finds love too late, is killed--a sort of long-deferred expiation of Everard guilt; and Miranda, returning to London, marries a black actor and finds happiness. The tempest seems finally over. Better on the past than on the present, with the story coming most alive when Warner describes Sycorax and the pristine island. Otherwise: too much pretentious profundity and polemical handwringing. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
David Rudd argues children's literature operates with an inherent awareness of cultural hybridity, quoting Hoban's 1975 Turtle Diary, which states "each new generation of children has to be told: "`This is the world'....maybe the constant fear is that a generation of children will come along and say, "This is not the world'" (Rudd 21). This new understanding of the constructed world, according to Rudd, in children's literature, is "expressive [in an]...uneasy transaction along borders, in which something other is gradually brought within, melding into adulthood" (21). By Rudd's definition then, Marina Warner's Indigo is a children's book in that Miranda Everard's perception of her constructed self changes through the blurring of familial myth and history as she and her sister chart their clan's dark colonial past. Though Sy, sister Xanthe's intended, claims soon after the girls' arrival on Enfant-Beate that "`Nothing was achieved here, except the slave system...Nothing will be, either, in the sense that you and I mean--art, music, the life of the mind, culture, society'" (304), the effects of the cultural cataclysm of slavery run more personally deep in Miranda, remaining an integral piece of her identity she would rather not like to bear. Early on, she is comforted by her father Kit's "fragments about land and battles, home farms and far plantations where tobacco and sugar grew, the exploits of Ant Everard...famous scores and games" (73) all while a deadly fog churns in from above. By the novel's end and Xanthe's downfall as hotel owner, Miranda's illusions have been shattered as she realizes in"the real world of the end of the century, breakage and disconnect were the only possible outcome" (391). Miranda, in effect, is sidled with a dual consciousness: one of innocent childhood where her family's exploits were romanticized, and a growing adult awareness of the falsity of that world in light of her expanding knowledge of colonialism and her family's role in it.
Despite this, the novel remains sluggish and never quite reaches the full potential created by its ancient-times sequences which rollick and roar with swashbuckling aplomb, enriched by the beauty of nature.