No Telephone to Heaven

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Dutton, 1987 - Fiction - 211 pages
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A brilliant Jamaican-American writer takes on the themes of colonialism, race, myth, and political awakening through the experiences of a light-skinned woman named Clare Savage. The story is one of discovery as Clare moves through a variety of settings -- Jamaica, England, America -- and encounters people who affect her search for place and self. The structure of No Telephone to Heaven combines naturalism and lyricism, and traverses space and time, dream and reality, myth and history, reflecting the fragmentation of the protagonist, who nonetheless seeks wholeness and connection. In this deply poetic novel there exist several levels: the world Clare encounters, and a world of which she only gradually becomes aware -- a world of extreme poverty, the real Jamaica, not the Jamaica of the middle class, not the Jamaica of the tourist. And Jamaica -- almost a character in the book -- is described in terms of extraordinary beauty, coexisting with deep human tragedy. The violence that rises out of extreme oppression, the divided loyalties of a colonized person, sexual dividedness, and the dividedness of a person neither white nor black -- all of these are truths that Clare must face. Overarching all the themes in this exceptionally fine novel is the need to become whole, and the decisions and the courage demanded to achieve that wholeness.

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No telephone to heaven

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One might expect a novel about Jamaica to be typical beach fare ("Come to Jamaica''), but Cliff depicts the island paradise as a powder keg. Clare, a light-skinned native, moves to New York City as a ... Read full review


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About the author (1987)

Michelle Carla Cliff was born in Kingston, Jamaica on November 2, 1946. She received a bachelor's degree in European history from Wagner College in 1969. She briefly worked as a researcher at Time-Life Books and as a production editor at W. W. Norton. At the University of London, she studied art at the Warburg Institute and received a master of philosophy degree in 1974 after writing a thesis on the Italian Renaissance. She returned to Norton and worked as a production editor for books on history, women's studies, and politics. Her first book, Claiming an Identity They Taught Me to Despise, was published in 1980. Her other books included The Land of Look Behind: Prose and Poetry, The Store of a Million Items, and If I Could Write This in Fire. Her first novel, Abeng, was published in 1984. Her other novels include No Telephone to Heaven, Free Enterprise: A Novel of Mary Ellen Pleasant, and Into the Interior. She died from liver failure on June 12, 2016 at the age of 69.

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