Jamaica Magazine

Book Review: The Girl From The Lane

Richard Hugh Blackford

About the Book
The Girl from the Lane is a fictional a love story that is set in the Caribbean island of Jamaica during a time that regional historians recorded as marking a period of pivotal social, economic and political change in the island. The story is set in the transient socio-political period of the late 1970’s to late 1980’s, and explores issues of honesty, integrity, spiraling criminality and the influence of drugs, money, and power. It provides the reader with an in-depth look at how the underworld forces work to legitimize itself in a country struggling with issues of approaches to development, and how these issues affect the country’s systems and its citizens through the experiences of its main character Sheila Sampson – The Girl from the Lane; and follows a period in her life. Sheila Sampson is the third of seven children of working class parents from the inner city community of 33 Lane in the tough Waltham Park Road area of the island’s capital city Kingston. Despite the desires of her parents for their daughter to provide an example to her younger siblings, Sheila’s youthful exuberances leads her in a completely different direction resulting in her being ostracized from her family and forced to face life on her own and to raise two young children in trying circumstances, especially after the departure of her lover and childhood sweetheart Tony. The story also portrays that in spite of hardships, there are choices that we all must make and that we must be prepared to deal with the consequences of those choices.

For a first novel, this really is a very good read…. well worth the purchase.. thought provoking and well written, every paragraph paints a picture – Heather Tanner

Romance tinged with intrigue, danger, shady deals, treachery, murder, set against the socio-historical and socio-political backdrop of a hot Kingston in the late seventies stretching into the late eighties; with a simple plot and a very familiar story-line unfolds the struggles of two promising teenagers whose dreams were derailed by an unwanted pregnancy. But this is just the skeleton of a more profound tale of thwarted dreams, the struggle to rise again, courage, determination and second chances – all this in one 271-page biographical fiction based on facts titled The Girl from the Lane, authored by Jamaican Richard Hugh Blackford.

It is a story of two teenager’s odyssey from the dungle heap of mistakes and self-imposed disappointments to self-realization, self-actualization and love. It is the story of Sheila Sampson and Tony Campbell, but it could be any teen-ager’s story – any teenager, who learns from mistakes and seizes the choice for a second chance.

The novel has some structural and stylistic challenges for the reader because in the initial chapters, the omniscient narrator is obtrusive and the author intersperses the flashback technique with contemporary stream of consciousness narrative technique popularly used by William Faulkner, thus presenting a tad bit of confusion of time, place, sequence and chronology of events for the inexperienced untrained reader. However as the story unfolds, the reader becomes more comfortable with the author’s technique and more engulfed in Sheila’s story – the girl from the lane who fell flat on her face but “brushed herself off and started all over again.”

The reader is also given a guided tour into some of Jamaica’s delightful spots and some of Kingston’s dangerous streets tinged with an expose into the Jamaican political and social landscape, with historical accuracy. This is lightly punctuated with the excitement of schoolboy cricket, track and field and of course the onslaught of “wild Gilbert”. The author must be a “purples old boy” because he did go overboard with firmly etching the history and academic prowess of Kingston College in several pages of the novel…and in the reader’s mind.
Notwithstanding the stylistic challenges and the sterilizing of the Jamaican creole – which by the way would have added more colour and authenticity to some of the characters – it is a very good first novel with substance, and an inspiring story to which many Jamaican mothers and daughters can relate. More importantly, although it is not in its narrative, it is a story from which invaluable lessons about failing forward, love, honesty, the consequences of uninformed and questionable choices and of course grim determination can be learnt.
The clincher quote: “It is where we go from here that matters and I don’t plan to waste this chance…”
It is a must read and it can be had on kindle – By Dee Campbell

About the Author
Richard Hugh Blackford grew up in Jamaica during the late 1950’s to the turn of the century and had a ring-side seat to the socio-political events that not only shaped the course of the islands development but provided the canvas on which this story has been painted. He was educated in Jamaica at Kingston College and Camperdown High Schools. He later attended the College of Arts, Science and Technology where he received a Certificate in Marketing, and the University of the West Indies where he completed a Bachelors degree in Management Studies. He later read for a Masters degree in Education at the University of Phoenix, Arizona. His business education though was set in motion by a 13 year stint with the largest food distribution company in the island where he rose to the position of Divisional Manager. His education not only informed his business foundation but exposed him to the critical issues that shaped the island and impacted his social and political consciousness. To this end he has written as much from his personal experiences as he has from the historical developments in the island over the period. Blackford currently resides in Florida where he is a practising Artist even as he pursues his passion for writing.

Where to buy the book:
Buy The Girl From The Lane at Amazon.com

About the author

Staff Writer