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Fruit of the Lemon (1999)

por Andrea Levy

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3761253,093 (3.47)50
Faith Jackson fixes herself up with a great job in TV and the perfect flatshare. Neither is that perfect, as it happens. Nor are her relations with her overbearing, though always loving family. Furious and perplexed when her parents suddenly announce their intention to retire back home to Jamaica, Faith makes her own journey there. Here she is immediately enfolded in the endless talk of her aunt Coral, keeper of a rich cargo of family history. Through the weave of her aunt's storytelling a cast of ancestors unfolds, stretching back to Cuba and Panama, Harlem and Scotland. Funny and compassionate, refreshing and wise, Fruit of the Lemon is a story that passes through London and sweeps over continents. It fully delivers the promise of Every Light in the House Burnin' and Never Far From Nowhere.… (mais)
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Mostrando 1-5 de 12 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
Not the normal book that I would read, but took a punt as it was a winner of the orange prize and Whitbread prize.

It concerns a girl born in the UK to Jamaican immigrants, and how she grows up with her brother. She is generally getting along fine, has a good job, is living with other people in a house, before coming up against the horrors of racial violence. Shee suffers a breakdown, and her parent decide to send her to Jamaica to spend time with the family that never left there.

Whilst there, her aunt takes her under her wing and tells had about the family that she knows nothing of.

Overall it wasn't too bad, the writing flows nicely, and the story is ok, but I wasn't keen on the way that the book is sectioned quite abruptly as it doesn't hang together as well as it could. ( )
  PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
My husband recommended this to me a while ago and I finally had the chance to read it! I was worried at first, because his last two have been, while very good, incredibly depressing, but this was a whole lot happier and more hopeful than White Teeth by Zadie Smith and The Autobiography of Malcolm X, so I can keep on with his recommendations! It’s interesting because Fruit of the Lemon does deal with the same sort of issues as those other two books — namely, what it means to be not-white in a society that favors being white, but it also marries this idea with a young woman’s coming of age. Faith has just graduated college and is trying to figure out who she is and what her place is in the world, which is made even more complicated by the fact that it’s harder for her to get the jobs that she wants because of racism and it’s harder for her to embrace her culture when she doesn’t have any friends that come from the same background as her.

I appreciated Levy’s ability to take serious concepts while also bringing humor and levity into it. Faith is living in a house with two guys and another girl, and the description of the house is hilarious, grotesque, and all too real of just-graduated-from-college young adults. The hygiene, decorating skills, and overall responsibility skills just aren’t quite there yet, but they’re trying to figure it out; Faith’s dad coming by the house because he was “in the area” is a hilarious moment because of this.

The racism in Faith’s workplace was well done — she wanted to be a dresser instead of working in the costume department of a TV station, cataloging costumes. Someone told her they never have “colored” people working those jobs, and when the hiring committee started being unfair to her, she mentioned that and eventually got the job she wanted, but they don’t actually really let her do the job, saying that no shows needed anyone to help dress the actors at the moment. This was much more interesting than Faith not getting the job outright, because it was harder for her to find something to be upset about — she got the job she wanted, they just didn’t need her to do those responsibilities right now. And then, when they do let her work, it’s to dress up dolls for a kid’s show and not actual actors.

However, this novel shines with Faith goes to Jamaica and learns about her family. More than anything, this book is about how people become who they are, how they relate to their families, and how family can tie everything together. I loved seeing Faith trace her family tree as each new story about a new relative is told to her, and even though the reader doesn’t get to see much of Faith’s transformation, I felt her becoming more comfortable with herself and who she is with each branch she adds to the tree. Fruit of the Lemon is a beautiful story about family, identity, and culture, and it’s able to tell an important story while still including humorous and touching moments. Along with my husband, I highly recommend reading this book.

Also posted on Purple People Readers. ( )
1 vote sedelia | Jan 23, 2017 |
I'm finding it difficult to describe this novel in ways that don't make it sound worthy but dull - it is anything but. It's lively, humorous, touching and effortless reading. Bear that in mind as you read further on.

'Fruit of the Lemon' is set initially in London in a time that is probably the late 1970s but is somewhat ill-defined. The latter half of the book is set in Jamaica at the same time. It's the story of Faith Jackson and ultimately the story - or stories - of her family, in London, Jamaica and elsewhere in the world. The telling rests on how these stories are known or revealed to Faith and how they affect her sense of identity, although little is made explicit about the effects on Faith herself. It's just as much about the effects on the reader.

Faith is one of two children of Jamaican immigrants to Britain who came in the wave encouraged by Britain in the 1950s to fill jobs in the public sector, transport and health particularly. Faith grows up knowing very little about her parents families or backgrounds, but isn't greatly concerned by this. She lives in a multi-cultural world typical of her generation in London, but is occasionally made sharply aware that she is black in a white world. Her family at times also express concerns that she doesn't mix 'with her own kind', sharing a flat as she does with three white contemporaries. They also aren't overjoyed to discover that two of her flatmates are men. But her experience isn't single-dimensional - she finds acceptance where she doesn't expect it as well as rejection.

A crisis in her life leads to the suggestion of a holiday with family in Jamaica. It's a place which she initially finds strange in many ways, and some there feel the same about her. Staying with her mother's sister Coral she discovers the island and through Coral and others hears more and more about her family, where they have gone and (perhaps) why. The process of discovery is made explicit through periodic appearances of a family tree throughout the book, one that begins with Faith, her parents, and her brother and ends up too complicated to recall without the diagrams to refer to.

Some of the tone and setting will be familiar to anyone who has read Levy's more well-known later novel "Small Island". The same lightness of touch, nuanced view of identity and culture and humour are all there. This book is a deserved winner of two prizes (the Whitbread and the Orange) and well worth a read. You'll find it much easier than eating a lemon. ( )
1 vote kevinashley | Jun 27, 2013 |
This is a story about discovering one’s roots. The hero is a London girl whose parents emigrated from Jamaica. All her life she’s been conscious of her differences, experiencing a vague tension that only occasionally becomes blatant racism. When she is in danger of becoming overwhelmed by it, her parents send her back to Jamaica. There she finds a place where she fits, and a whole lot more branches to her family tree. It’s light, funny, clearly observed, never shallow, and well worth reading. ( )
  astrologerjenny | Apr 25, 2013 |
This is a story about discovering one’s roots. The hero is a London girl whose parents emigrated from Jamaica. All her life she’s been conscious of her differences, experiencing a vague tension that only occasionally becomes blatant racism. When she is in danger of becoming overwhelmed by it, her parents send her back to Jamaica. There she finds a place where she fits, and a whole lot more branches to her family tree. It’s light, funny, clearly observed, never shallow, and well worth reading. ( )
  astrologerjenny | Apr 24, 2013 |
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Faith Jackson fixes herself up with a great job in TV and the perfect flatshare. Neither is that perfect, as it happens. Nor are her relations with her overbearing, though always loving family. Furious and perplexed when her parents suddenly announce their intention to retire back home to Jamaica, Faith makes her own journey there. Here she is immediately enfolded in the endless talk of her aunt Coral, keeper of a rich cargo of family history. Through the weave of her aunt's storytelling a cast of ancestors unfolds, stretching back to Cuba and Panama, Harlem and Scotland. Funny and compassionate, refreshing and wise, Fruit of the Lemon is a story that passes through London and sweeps over continents. It fully delivers the promise of Every Light in the House Burnin' and Never Far From Nowhere.

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