Page 76. " I hear one time that Miss Antoinette and his son Mr Sandi get married, but that all foolishness "

"Marry" here means to have sexual intercourse; as is indicated elsewhere, the black population's concept of marriage is rather different to the white interpretation. For a white girl to sleep with a mixed-race man was totally taboo, although many white men slept with black women. As Rhys herself said, it was:

'in those days [the 1900s], a terrible thing for a white girl to do. Not to be forgiven. The men did as they liked. The women – never.'

Page 76. " Vengeance is Mine "

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

Romans 12:19

Page 77. " They call me Daniel,' he said, still not looking at me, 'but my name is Esau.' "

Both Biblical characters.

Daniel survived the lion's den thanks to his Christian piety.

Isaac's eldest son, Esau sold his birthright to his brother Jacob for a meal of pottage in Genesis 25-7. Depending on interpretation, he either cared solely for short term gain, or was cheated out of his inheritance.

Page 83. " Sometimes when I was thirsty I licked raindrops from the jasmine leaves after a shower. "

West Indian Jasmine
Creative Commons AttributionWest Indian Jasmine - Credit: Mulberry24, Flickr

Page 84. " Certainly many of the old estates were burned. You saw ruins all over the place. "

In Jamaica in 1831, many black slaves, led by the Baptist Minister Sam Sharpe, organised a protest to call for wages. This soon turned violent: on December 27th protesters razed Kensington Estate Great House, and for the next ten days burned other estates and crops and killed a number of white people before the rebellion was savagely put down. Nonetheless, the 1831 Christmas Rebellion, as it became known, is widely seen as a crucial catalyst for the 1833 Emancipation Act.

Page 91. " I had his reply in a few days "

Impossible –  to get a letter from Dominica to Jamaica and receive a reply would take considerably longer in the colonial West Indies.

Page 92. " If she lives near you and gets up to any of her nonsense let him know at once "

There were (and still are) strict laws against the practice of obeah in the Caribbean (although now they are not heavily enforced, and the penalties are far less severe). The Jamaican Slave Laws of 1760, passed after the Tacky slave rebellion, attacked obeah men and women (who, as community leaders, often led slave revolts) and declared:

any Negro or other Slave who shall pretend to any Supernatural Power and be detected in making use of any Blood, Feathers, Parrots Beaks, Dogs Teeth, Alligators Teeth, broken Bottles, Grave Dirt, Rum, Egg-shells or any other materials relating to the practice of Obeah or Witchcraft in order to delude or impose upon the Minds of others shall upon Conviction thereof before two Magistrates and three Freeholders suffer Death or Transportation.

Page 95. " that's Obeah too. "

In Voodoo belief, one of the ways in which a sorcerer gained complete control over his zombie slave was to rename him, erasing his former identity.

Page 95. " For Charlie over the water "

Judging from this, Antoinette's grandfather was a supporter of the Jacobite claim to the English throne.

In the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688-9, William of Orange, at the invitation of the English nobility, deposed James II, a Catholic. James went into exile in France in 1688; his supporters would drink to the king 'over the water'.

Charlie is Bonnie Prince Charlie, James's son, who tried unsuccessfully to claim the throne in 1745. He fled to France, disguised as a lady's maid, after the battle of Culloden, the final Jacobite rising.

Annette's family were possibly of Scottish Catholic heritage, hence their support for the Jacobites and, perhaps, their settlement in French Catholic Martinique rather than a British colony. Perhaps it also explains their relocation to the Caribbean: many supporters of the 1715 rebellion were deported to the British Caribbean.

Sir Walter Scott's Waverley, which was almost certainly on the Coulibri shelf, popularised and romanticised the Jacobite cause for his nineteenth-century readership.

Robert Burns wrote a poem called O'er the Water to Charlie.

Over the Water to Charlie is a Scottish and English folk song ... 


...and Morris dance.


Click here to listen to an In Our Time on the Jacobite Rebellion.

Page 96. " when I felt her teeth in my arm "

In Jane Eyre, Bertha Rochester often recourses to biting, which is interpreted as an act of her wildness and savagery by the other characters in the book.

Page 96. " Ma belle ka di "

A line from the song Adieu Foulard, Adieu Madras, referenced also on p.55.


Page 96. " Or was it the song about one day and a thousand years? "

In response to the daughter's question as to why beautiful flowers live only for a day, the mother replies that one day and a thousand years are the same to God.

This song seems to be based on 2 Peter 3:8:

But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

Page 98. " One is Prince Rupert, and one who makes songs is Rupert the Rine "

Prince Rupert of the Rhine was Charles I’s nephew, and a general in the English Civil War. In 1652, he briefly pursued a career as a buccaneer in the Caribbean, before returning to Europe.

These Ruperts may or may not be part of his legacy in the Caribbean.

Page 98. " That doctor an old time doctor. These new ones I don’t like them. First word in their mouth is police. "

There was often tension between the official, colonially approved, doctors and the obeah men and women whom many of the black population consulted for their health problems.