Mr Potter

“Mr Potter” by Jamaica Kincaid (Antigua)

Synopsis and Review

“Mr Potter”: a long lament for an absent father

In this semi-autobiographical novel, Jamaica Kincaid tells the story of an ordinary man, his century, and his home. The island of Antigua comes vibrantly to life under the gaze of Mr. Potter, an illiterate taxi chauffeur who makes his living driving along the wide-open roads which pass the only towns he has ever seen and the graveyard where he will be buried. The sun shines harshly overhead; the ocean lies on every side and suppressed lives fill the air.

Readers’ reactions to the book were very mixed. Most found that the long repetitive sentences and the lack of plot made reading it very difficult and more than one reader felt like giving up before the end. They found the story overly depressing and that very little happens. One reader said it took him a while to get into the rhythm of the story without getting bored with the style. At times, the author would introduce a new character or element and readers became hopeful that something would happen only to be disappointed by the absence of any action. However, one reader said that the style took her by surprise at an emotional level, where she saw the story going from the mundane to the profound. She was touched by the contrasts and the contradictions. For her, the repetitive style portrayed simply the ordinariness of the lives of the characters in their honest and raw brutality. The group was swayed by this opinion. Most readers agreed that the author seemed to be saying that the history of lineage somehow determines our lives and how we relate to the world. The book ended up with an overall rating of 7 out of 10.

Nicola’s Book Club reading list

Season 3 (Feb – Jun 2006)

“Pilgrim” by Timothy Findley (Canada) *
“Mr Potter” by Jamaica Kincaid (Antigua)
“Island” by Aldous Huxley (U.K.)
“Broken Verses” by Kamila Shamsie (Pakistan)
“Distant Palaces” by Abilio Estevez (Cuba)

* The book club favourite
In italics, Nicola’s Coup de Cœur

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