Black Rock, By Amanda Smyth

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The Independent Culture

Amanda Smyth's debut novel follows the fortunes of a young girl, Celia, as she struggles to survive in a predatory, patriarchal world. Raised in Tobago by her aunt Tassi, after her own mother had died giving birth to her, Celia's idyllic early life is threatened the moment her aunt marries the slovenly, alcoholic Roman. As soon as she is 16, Roman rapes her.

Celia flees on the night of the rape, intending to go to Southampton, where she was once told that the father she's never seen now lives. But she only gets as far as Trinidad, where she is felled by a sudden illness. On her recovery, she goes to work for the kindly doctor who tended to her. He is unhappily married and, before long, makes a pass at Celia. She is a damaged but irresistible heroine, and her inability to refuse him raises much readerly sympathy. She embarks on a dangerous affair with the doctor.

Smyth's story is a powerful, authentic one and Celia is an appealing, earthy, yet spiritual heroine who grows, wounded and embattled, through the course of the book.