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Augustown - Kei Miller

I particularly wanted to enjoy this book as the author was at our literary festival and he was just lovely. He was the only man on a panel for International Ladies Day and had such empathy. I really felt this empathy in the way he wrote his main character of Augustown, the elderly, blind, Ma Taffy.


I was listening to the audio version of this book, read by Dona Croll, which was great for getting the correct Jamaican accent, but a bit irritatingly slow.


However, for me, the part that lowered my star rating was the story about the flying preacherman, which didn't grab my attention at all. What I didn't realise when listening was that this story represented the beginnings of the Jamaican religion of Bedwardism, which, to quote Wikipedia, 'was one of the most popular Afro-Jamaican politico-religious movements from the 1890s to the 1920s".


The rest of the novel was excellent and the characters were interesting. Ma Taffy's great-nephew, Kaia, has his dreadlocks cut off by a teacher and there is a nice circle of connections between the characters of Ma Taffy's family as the story progresses. 


A heavy atmosphere of impending trouble and doom runs throughout the novel and is excellently portrayed by the author. In the opening scene we meet a young gangster who thinks Ma Taffy doesn't know he hides his guns under her house, and later the Rastafarians mass to protest the cutting of Kaia's dreadlocks. Class segregation and social hierarchy felt like a living entity that could spark a riot at any time.