The Orchid House

Phyllis Shand Allfrey
ISBN: 9780993108624
April 30 2016 Paperback, £8.99

After many years out of print this enticing and hugely autobiographical novel is back. Its new and incisive introduction by the Dominican scholar Schuyler Esprit casts a fresh and contemporary eye on Allfrey’s life and work.

First published in 1953, it was republished in 1982 as a Virago Modern Classic. It was later filmed by Channel 4 for a four-part series (1991) with Diana Quick, Frances Barber and Elizabeth Hurley (available as a DVD).

Three white sisters return to their Caribbean island home to find their family living in poverty and mental anguish. Each sister responds to the family’s plight in different ways — seeking change through romance or politics or money. The Orchid House describes a colonial society in decay as seen through the (usually) loyal eyes of the sisters’ childhood nurse, Lally: “Beauty and disease, beauty and sickness, beauty and horror: that was the island.”

Enchanting. Set in an island of abundant beauty, this is one of those
special novels: once read, it is always loved and never forgotten.

– Carmen Callil, former publisher Virago Modern Classics

Nature and politics – the two strands in Allfrey’s love for her island – come together in The Orchid House to inspire one of the most original texts in Caribbean literature.

– Lisa Paravisini-Gebert, Allfrey’s biographer