Crick Crack, Monkey

Merle Hodge        Pages: 123          Published: 1970

The book: A young girl called Tee narrates the story of her childhood in Trinidad. After her Mother dies during childbirth, Tee is forced to live first with an aunt she calls Tantie and then with her Aunt Beatrice.  Tantie is warm, bawdy and welcoming, while Beatrice inhabits a Creole middle-class world that is pretentious and discriminatory toward lower-class people of color.
The story follows Tee as she grows up being pulled between two different worlds, trying to fit in at school, and to find her own identity.

You might like it because: Hodge very cleverly lets the reader discover life in post-colonial Trinidad through the eyes of a child.  Tee’s innocence and naivety is a foil the author uses well to bring to life some of the aftermath of colonialism.  The reader gets a real sense of Tee’s struggle to fit into the culturally different lives of her aunts and to navigate the complex world of adults.

What did other people say?
“One of the best Caribbean novels ever written. It is a fictional account of the traumas associated with British colonial education that is as sophisticated as any theoretical analysis or sociological study of these issues.” – Catherine John, University of Oklahoma

“Few works express so lucidly and in such a sublime manner the cultural nexus of the Anglophone Caribbean—particularly in Trinidad—as Crick Crack, Monkey does.”
– John Gery, University of New Orleans

How quickly will you get into the book?  Hodge does a marvelous job of pulling the reader straight into the story, so within the first couple of pages, I was hooked.

You might not like it because: Hodge creates a vivid and rich picture of life with Tantie, and in doing so uses Trinidadian dialect. There’s a glossary at the back of the book explaining the meaning of words. While some readers might appreciate this, others may not like being distracted from the story with words they need to lookup.

What might you read next?
Read Beyond a Boundary by C.L.R James, another author from Trinidad—ostensibly a memoir about cricket but really so much more; it’s a social commentary on post-colonial West Indian society.

Move from Trinidad to Haiti and read M.J.Fièvre’s memoir of growing up during a tumultuous period in that country’s history: A Sky the Color of Chaos.

Alternatively, choose a thriller set in the USA where the child is the narrator. Read The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.

© 2018

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