Childhood memories alternate with scenes of revolution and defeat in this complex work from a promising new voice.

Belvidere Estate Fédon's House

VOICES FROM THE PAST

A bloody 18th-century rebellion lives long in the memory of a Caribbean estate in Hall’s debut memoir.

The author was born in 1945 and grew up on a spice estate in Grenada called Belvidere, where planting and harvesting had gone on since the 18th century. The stilt-supported barracks of the laborers almost perfectly resembled the cabins of their enslaved ancestors, and their children were barred from exploring the parasite-ridden outdoors or the kitchen buildings where food was prepared on stone slabs and “dried wood and oil-rich nutmeg branches, placed between the stones, served as cooking fuel.” At Belvidere, from a perch on his family’s front doorsill, Hall heard stories of the estate’s notorious former occupant, Julien Fédon, and the bloody rebellion he incited in the spring of 1795 that “seized and plundered British estates,” assumed control of the island (except for the seat of government), and eventually cost the lives of thousands of Grenadians. Inspired by the revolutions in Haiti, the United States, and France, Fédon, a seasoned French officer, masterfully played various sides of the struggle—French, British, Grenadian, and Hessian—against one another and nearly succeeded in changing the history of the Western Hemisphere. In this volume, Fédon’s story alternates with chapters in which Hall tells of his own childhood on the plantation in a sweet, nostalgic tone. He describes it, convincingly, as a melting pot, encompassing “poor whites” and people whose skin color he describes as “black as tar” as well as plenty of East Indians. Among the latter was the author’s adopted mother, an illiterate farm laborer who nearly burst with happiness when her son was admitted to exclusive schools. “Wherever people came from,” one wise old resident told him, “we were one people when we worked at Belvidere.” Hall brings the world of his youth to life with anecdotes that live up to the high billing of their chapter titles. Readers learn about the fascinating mix of religions at Belvidere as well as about the custom of swinging children over gravestones to protect them from curses; sightings of ghosts in the dismal woods; and the legend of the “loupgarou,” island vampires who were allegedly capable of manifesting themselves as giant balls of fire. As a result, Hall’s book will absorb readers for hours.

Childhood memories alternate with scenes of revolution and defeat in this complex work from a promising new voice.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9970190-0-1

Page Count: 264

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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