Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Review - Olga: A Daughter's Tale by Marie-Therese Browne

ISBN #: 978-0-646-54559-2
Page Count: 214
Copyright: 2008

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

In 1994, my mother, Carmen Browne, was admitted to the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton in the UK seriously ill.  As she slowly recovered I realised had she died so too would the chance for me to find out about our past, her family in Jamaica and, of great importance to me, who my father was, information she had resolutely refused to share with me.  So, I decided to find out for myself.

My first discovery was that my mother was, in fact, Olga Browney, born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, and one of eleven children from a close-knit coloured Catholic family.  A kind, naive and gentle girl, Olga came to London in 1939 to live with her malevolent, alcoholic aunt and intending to stay only six months.  But, world events, personal tragedy and malicious intent all combined to prevent her from returning to her family in Kingston.

Mandy's Review:


I thought the cover was okay when I first received the book, but after reading the story I looked at the cover a second time.  That second look endeared the cover to me.  I like to think the old photographs and color drawings on the cover are personal mementos from the author's, now gone, family members ... only the author knows for sure if they are.


The back cover states this book is written in the form of diary entries and old letters ... I would rather like to believe these chapters are reprints of actual diary entries and old letters.

Becky travels to Jamaica to visit her sister, Lucy, and decides she does not want to return to London.  During her visit, she falls in love with a man ... the result of which causes them to be the gossip of Jamaica.  They marry and have eleven children, Olga being one of them.

Years later, Olga travels to London because she wishes to attend dance school.  Due to a series of unfortunate events, Olga is unable to return to Jamaica when originally planned and decides to attend nursing school.  Sadly, naive Olga becomes a victim and now feels she can no longer communicate or visit her family in Jamaica.  She feels her secret is so huge and unforgiving that she becomes reclusive and takes whatever menial jobs she can to earn wages.

Eventually, the truth comes out and the Browney family is reunited.  The sad part is that some of Olga's family died believing Olga to be dead years before, thanks to one particularly cruel, and I believe jealous, member of the family.

Main Characters

Becky - I love Becky.  She had spunk, tenacity and didn't give one whit what society thought of her or her actions.  I understand Becky because I was in her place not too long ago.  I applaud Becky and will forever be proud of her and what she stood for.

Sydney - The eldest son of Becky - He had to become the man of the house after Becky kicked her husband out of the home.  Sydney was sometimes cruel to the other ten children, but thought he did his best by them when he could.

Martha - A spiteful, bitter, jealous, hypocrite of a lady - She was Becky and Lucy's sister who lived in London earning wages as a seamstress for a theater.

Olga - Naive, stubborn, proud, untrusting, self-depreciating ... These are a few adjectives that describe Olga.  She was a complex mixture of strong and weak.  It felt as though she struggled with wanting to be taken care of and being proud of the small accomplishments she made in providing for herself and her daughter.


I have a strong desire to learn my own ancestry, so knowing the author researched her family history and based this book on that history intrigued me.  I would have loved to have gotten to know Becky and Olga.  I rooted for both of them throughout the book and to know they actually existed makes me wish I were a part of their family tree.

To say I was drawn to this book or that I loved it is not enough.  I can say that, after reading it, it still resonates within me.

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