Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Annie John, a slim novel—the chapters of which originally appeared as short stories in The New Yorker—is a first-person account of the childhood and adolescence of Annie John, a girl reared on the small Caribbean island of Antigua.

Annie experiences a childhood paradise. Her island home explodes with bright colors: the brilliant, flamboyant flowers, white sand, and blue sky and sea. The close community nurtures her. Mr. Earl and Mr. Nigel catch the fish that Annie and her parents eat. Mr. Kenneth, the butcher, offers Annie a piece of raw liver, one of the few foods that she enjoys, and Miss Dewberry bakes the buns that Annie’s parents serve at tea. Annie is also part of an affectionate and supportive family. Together, she and her father, a carpenter, select the lumber that he will fashion into her bedroom furniture. Most important, however, Annie loves and is loved by her mother. Her mother teaches Annie about washing (white clothes are to be bleached by the sun on a stone) and about cooking traditional dishes (such as pumpkin soup, banana fritters, and stewed salt fish)—skills that Annie will need when, it is assumed, she establishes her own household on the island. Annie enjoys the days spent with her mother, days filled with walking to the grocer’s; arranging her mother’s trunk that holds memorabilia such as Annie’s wool booties, certificates of merit, and dresses worn on special occasions; bathing together in water...

(The entire section is 549 words.)