Dear Mme Lucinda
‘Once you let me know that it is five hundred francs for all the girls I will send them to you. I am willing to pay seven hundred francs if you will take all four of them. They are good girls, very studious and quiet. Please write me back soon. Mme. Lucinda, I pray on your merciful heart. The girls cannot be without each other. It will rip my heart to not have them with me. But they are doing nothing here. The country is not progressing, and I do not want them to stand still with it.’
– Joanne Skerrett
‘Dear Mme Lucinda’ is a wonderful short story told in the epistolary form by Joanne Skerrett. The writer’s use of letters was instantly intriguing to me and reminded me of the great stories written through letters in the eighteenth century, as well as the important role letters play in plot development within works by writers such as Jane Austen. The letter form works especially well for creating two very distinct characters in this piece.
The story opens with Theresa Charles writing from Dominica to Mme Lucinda who is in Guadeloupe. Theresa appeals to Lucinda to take her daughters into the school in Guadeloupe so that they can escape the destruction caused by Hurricane David in Dominica. This hurricane was the worst disaster to occur in living memory within Dominica and resulted in seventy-five percent of the population losing their homes in 1979. Choosing this setting and this historical context gives Joanne immense scope for a powerful and emotional story.
Lucinda offers to take some of Theresa’s daughters but not all of them. Theresa writes back saying that she does not want to see them separated. Lucinda’s final response is a tragic one: there is no more room for any of the girls in the school; none of Theresa’s children will be educated there. The way Joanne draws attention to the tragic impact of the hurricane is very skillful. It is interesting to read such a specific story in which the lack of education takes centre stage over the actual climate disaster. Education is such an invaluable aspect of growing up and drawing attention to the lack of this in less privileged areas of the world is a very poignant thing to do. I hope that our readers will learn something about the Caribbean and about the suffering faced in the aftermath of Hurricane David from reading this piece.
I wanted to draw particular attention to the extract above. The fact that Theresa is willing to pay more and to be parted from her daughters just so that they can have a chance at education demonstrates the extent of sacrifice and desperation that some parents experience in trying to educate their children. The line stating that Theresa does not want her children to stand still as the country does evokes a sense of hope and a strong belief in progress which we as readers can’t help but support with all our hearts. As a result of this, the subsequent letter in which Lucinda says there is no more room at the school comes across as even more tragic and disappointing.
Overall, this is a brilliant piece of fiction with an interesting form, setting and historical context.
Amber Kennedy, Editor-in-Chief
Original feature image by Suzy Hazelwood; retrieved from Pexels.com.