Critical Context

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

New Day is an ambitious first novel in which Reid sought to create a national consciousness and to show a continuity in Jamaican history and public life which had not been expressed in literature before. The novel is also innovative in its attempt to use a West Indian dialect in both narration and dialogue. As already noted, this use of dialect is not always under control; in addition, the dialect at times disappears entirely as the narrator faithfully but incongruously reports long passages of standard English dialogue. New Day was one of the first novels of the West Indian literary renaissance, and in the use of West Indian dialect forms Reid experimented with techniques that were soon to be exploited by other Caribbean writers, most notably Samuel Selvon.

Reid has published The Leopard (1958), a novel which also explores the colonial experience and is set in Kenya during the Mau Mau uprising. He has published novels for children, including Sixty-five (1960), which deals with some of the same historical events as New Day but is more conventional and, within its restricted aim, sometimes more successful.

Despite having revealed his partisan political bias in New Day, Reid makes clear that what he is advocating is a generous and humane approach to Jamaican political development and social reconciliation. It is indeed unfortunate that external and internal pressures have combined to prevent most of the hopes he expressed for Jamaica in 1949 from becoming a reality in the subsequent decades.