Margaret Cezair-Thompson’s sophomore novel The Pirate’s Daughter is a rare combination of literary genres – a historical romance that bristles with the particular prejudices explored in the most insightful Caribbean literature, a sprawling family epic touched with ruined Hollywood symbolism. It’s been receiving critical acclaim from the likes of People, O Magazine, Vogue, and the Washington Post. In a sentence, the novel is about the lives of a stunningly beautiful and complex mother and daughter, all set against the backdrop of a troubled Jamaica rising to independence. Oh, and Errol Flynn is there too, swashbuckling and seducing his way into their lives.
Cezair-Thompson explains that his character is pivotal, but kind of incidental.
“I wouldn’t say I had any long form fascination with him. The idea of the novel didn’t center on him. It’s about the place – Port Antonio, Jamaica – and a young black girl with an older white man in this particular time and place. It was as if Errol Flynn swung in on his rope, and it came together for me because he is such a symbol. He represented white western male fascination with the tropics. The more I found out about him as an actor and as a real person, he just seemed like such a great symbol of these explorers, adventurers, the people who created the Caribbean in terms of the piracy and all the bad behavior that shaped the island’s history,” she says.
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Despite the obvious symbol of Flynn and the familiarity of young-island-girl romance, she took pains to fully develop all of her characters and tell a fleshed out and complete story. “I didn’t want this to be a stereotypical thing of the white male conqueror, where the tropical people have no voice. I really wanted to give the power to the islanders themselves. This is a story about identity. That’s truly there for me.”
Cezair-Thompson sees her character May as the voice of Jamaica – troubled and complicated as she may be. “She comes to really find her voice, and Jamaica comes to look at itself in a new and unique way. Some of the coming of age is painful and violent,” she explains. Cezair-Thompson – fresh from her first ever appearance at the Miami International Book Fair – will read and discuss The Pirate’s Daughter tonight at 8:00 p.m. at Books & Books, 265 Aragon Avenue Coral Gables. --Patrice Yursik