A (literally) washed-up movie star, a 13-year-old beauty, and a cast of real characters sweep through a swashbuckling Caribbean epic.
Imagine that you are a beautiful 13-year-old Jamaican girl. Imagine that movie star Errol Flynn washes up near your town in his schooner after a hurricane. This is a slightly older, fatter, and sadder Errol Flynn than in his Captain Blood prime but still so handsome that he makes the women in the marketplace faint. Imagine that Flynn falls in love with Jamaica, buys a small island for himself, and befriends your father. Imagine that he treats you like a pet, until one morning, when you are 16, he takes you out for a horseback ride, and... This is the delicious premise that sets Margaret Cezair-Thompson's The Pirate's Daughter (Unbridled) in motion, and from there, the novel never stops for breath once. It moves from the story of the lovely Ida, whom Flynn callously ignores after she becomes pregnant with his child, to the story of his illegitimate daughter, May, a tomboy who inherits her father's wild streak. Once you get past a slightly-too-literary wrapping for the narrative, including a confusing prologue, this speedboat just buzzes along, with years flying by between chapters, and dozens of characters entering and exiting, saying interesting things and doing outrageous ones. These characters range from aristocratic Europeans to desperately poor Jamaicans, and they are constantly pairing off in the most surprising ways. Cezair-Thompson's real achievement here is showing how dynamic a small island society can be, one in which people are too intimate to be kept apart by money or race. The real star? It's not Errol Flynn; it's Jamaica.
Printed from Oprah.com on Monday, December 9, 2013