Skip to main content

Review: Luminous Isle, by Eliot Bliss


Pages: 372
Original date of publication: 1934
My edition: 1984 (Virago)
Why I decided to read: AV/AA
How I acquired my copy: September 2011, London

Luminous Isle takes place in Jamaica in the 1920s, where Emmeline Hibbert has been raised. She returns to Jamaica after years spent in England and is immediately thrust back into the colonial life: parties, tennis, and polo matches. But Em’s real interest and focus lie in the Island itself.

Eliot Bliss’s writing style is incredibly philosophic; Em is an extremely introspective character, as well as introverted, so we get snippets of her thoughts that go somewhat like this:

People who felt dull when they were alone could not really be people; they were parts of ideas rushing about the world looking for the other parts--that was what must have been meant by 'looking for your complement'--they didn't seem to think it was unflattering to be considered unrelated pieces of a jig-saw puzzle. P 76

Each life is a private world; an experience private and peculiar to the individual soul who passes through it. To each person who is born into the world, the world in their own particular reality and undiscovered sphere… Nobody could see the world through one’s own eyes except oneself… seeing the world afresh through her own eyes; realizing for the first time this phenomenon, and that one ought never to allow the ideas of other people, who had already formed their own tidy conclusions about life, to be thrust in between oneself and one’s own vision of the world.” Pp 98-99

The life of personal freedom, of thought and feeling, and on occasion of action, she knew now to be more essential. P. 183

There’s nothing really simple or straightforward about Bliss’s prose, which I totally loved. Em has strong ties to the past, and she is incredibly independent, which lends her an air of detachment from the rest of her peers. Although she tends to spend time with the natives, there is little physical description; rather, the reader gets the essence of place rather than the details. It’s a powerful novel that in one sense explores the power that the memory holds over a person’s perception, imagination, and identity.



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Invitation to the Waltz, by Rosamond Lehmann

Pages: 304Original date of publication: 1931My edition: Why I decided to read: I found this while looking on ebay for Virago Modern ClassicsHow I acquired my copy: bought secondhand on ebayInvitation to the Waltz is one of those coming-of-age-stories. Unlike, for example, The Crowded Street, which focuses on a young woman’s entire coming-of-age experience, Invitation to the Waltz focuses on just one moment in seventeen-year-old Olivia Curtis’s life: a coming-out ball, the seminal moment in the life of any girl of the period (approximately the 1920s). Olivia is neither the most beautiful nor the most vivacious girl at the party, and she’s apprehensive about the evening and all it entails. This is not one of those “high action” books, but it gives a lot of insight into the thoughts and feelings of a girl making the leap into adulthood. I think if I had read this book ten years ago, I would have completely identified with Olivia—she’s shy and retiring, and unsure of herself. Her dress is…

The Sunday Salon

What a crazy week this has been! My cousin, who’s ten, was in town for most of this past week, and since he’s high energy, it’s taken a lot of energy especially out of my mom, who also had to deal with my 87-year-old grandmother. Plus. my sister was in town for the weekend, so it’s been mostly crazy around here. All of my posts this past week have been scheduled; and I only got around to writing a bunch of outstanding reviews yesterday afternoon. It’s quieter here now that my mom has driven my sister back to New York, and I’ve spent much of today catching up on sleep and, of course, reading. Right now I’m reading one of my Virago Modern Classics: The Rising Tide, by Molly Keane (though it was originally published under her pseudonym MJ Farrell). I’m really loving it; the author really knew how to combine wonderful (sometimes exasperating) characters with a great plot. I’ve been cruising Ebay for more books by Molly Keane, since I’m living her writing style. This is easily one of the b…

Read in 2014

January:
1. Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
2. The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome, by Tony Attwood
3. Mozart and the Whale, by Mary and Jerry Newport
4. Handling the Truth, by Beth Kephart
5. Girl, Interrupted, by Susanna Kaysen
6. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
7. Them, by Joyce Carol Oates
8. Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys

February:
1. Random Family, by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
2. I Was Told There'd Be Cake, by Sloane Crosley
3. The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath
4. Twilight Sleep, by Edith Wharton
5. Twirling Naked in the Streets, by Jeannie Davide-Rivera
6. Hungry Hill, by Daphne Du Maurier
7. Me, Myself, and Why, by Jennifer Ouilette
8. Lady Chatterley's Lover, by DH Lawrence
9. The Wise Virgins, by Leonard Woolf

March:
1. Out With It, by Katherine Preston
2. Never Have I Ever, by Katie Heaney
3. Look me in the Eye, by John Elder Robison
4. Beyond, the Glass, by Antonia White
5. Atypical, by Jesse Saperstein
6. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, by Maggie O'Far…