Today marks the publication of Papillote Press’ new edition of Phyllis Shand Allfrey’s The Orchid House.
The Orchid House
by Phyllis Shand Allfrey with a new introduction by Schuyler Esprit
Papillote Press is delighted to bring back into print the acclaimed Caribbean classic novel The Orchid House by the Dominican writer and politician Phyllis Shand Allfrey. 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). This edition has a new and incisive introduction by the Dominican scholar Schuyler Esprit, which casts a fresh and contemporary eye on Allfrey’s life and work.
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. Intensely autobiographical, 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.”
Phyllis Shand Allfrey (1908-1986) was born in Dominica, like her friend and compatriot Jean Rhys, into a white planter family. After living in New York and London, she returned to Dominica: she co-founded the island’s first political party and was a Minister in the West Indies Federation. The Orchid House is her only novel. Her short stories (It Falls into Place) and collected poems (Love for an Island) are also published by Papillote Press.
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