Mr. Potter by Jamaica Kinkaid (review by Andrew R. ’17)

Mr. PotterMr. Potter by Jamaica Kincaid
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Mr. Potter is the story of an illiterate Antiguan chauffeur whose father was long-gone by the time of his birth, whose mother drowned herself when he was still a young child, whose clients are disdainful of his social status and the color of his skin, and whose illegitimate daughters are strangers to him because he abandoned every one of them, just as his own father abandoned him. One of these daughters narrates this novel from a distance—a distance of time, since her father died years prior (we watch her visit his grave), but also an emotional distance that causes her to treat him with a mixture of pity and contempt and guarded affection. The best one can say about Mr. Potter as a novel is that it’s lyrical; in fact, it takes lyricism and extends to an almost illogical extreme. In the interests of lyricism, then, our narrator repeats the same facts and phrases five or six times in the same sentence. “Mr. Potter was my father, my father’s name was Mr. Potter,” she tells us at least once every chapter. It’s an interesting technique, certainly, and one that lends a certain power to this novel, but more often than not it turns Jamaica Kincaid’s otherwise impressive prose into a sticky morass.

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