BooksLucy A Novel

Lucy: A Novel

Jamaica Kincaid

Book Basics


Lucy: A Novel


Jamaica Kincaid


September 1990






Lucy is a short novel or novella by Jamaica Kincaid. The story begins in medias res: the eponymous Lucy has come from the West Indies to the United States to be an au pair for a wealthy white family. The plot of the novel closely mirrors Kincaid's own experiences. Lucy retains the critical tone of A Small Place but simplifies the style of Kincaid’s earlier work by using less repetition and surrealism. The first of her books set completely outside the Caribbean, Lucy, like most of Kincaid’s writing, has a strong autobiographical basis. The novel’s protagonist, Lucy Josephine Potter, shares one of Kincaid’s given names and her birthday. Like Kincaid, Lucy leaves the Caribbean to become an au pair in a large American city. At nineteen, Lucy is older than previous Kincaid protagonists, which lends the book a more mature and cynical perspective than in her previous fiction. Still, Lucy has pangs of homesickness and unresolved feelings about her mother, and she has never lived on her own or seen much of the world. With plenty of room for growth and Lucy becoming a photographer, the story takes the form of a künstlerroman, a novel in which an artist matures. Lucy also joins the tradition of American immigration literature, tales that recount a newcomer’s experience in the United States, such as those seen in Anzia Yezierska’s Bread Givers, Willa Cather’s My Antonia, and Julia Alvarez’s How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. Along with exploring immigration, Lucy, as does much of Kincaid’s work, grapples with tensions between mother and daughter. Colonial themes of identity confusion and the connection between maternal and imperial rule stand out less clearly in Lucy than in Kincaid’s earlier books but have an underlying presence in Lucy’s relationship with her white, affluent employers, her homeland, and her new surroundings.

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