Title: Nostaliga from: A city set upon a hill
Author: Garfield Whyte
Review: After reading TJ’s last summer in Cape Cod I was quite excited to read Garfield Whyte’s memoir Nostalgia from: A city set upon a hill. One thing I have noticed about both books if they open with a summary written by someone other than the author, I found these opening to be strange and intriguing and certainly peaked my interest in the book before I began reading. Compared to the previous book I read by this author this book is extremely short at only 70 pages making it an extremely quick read for a memoir as Whyte is only focusing on his high school years rather than his entire life. Whyte grew up in Saint Elizabeth, Jamaica, where he and most other boys dreamed of attending Munro College a highly regarding school in the area, in which Whyte started in 1977.
One thing I noticed which I have only seen in a handful of memoirs was the pictures, especially the one of the school at the end of the first chapter which sets the scene and allows the readers to access the mindset of the author in this moments, his awe and excitement at living the shared dreams of all the local children. As a young lad staying at a boarding school for this first time it was absolutely wondrous to share in his emotions which come across so strongly; anticipation, excitement and a hint of fear and intimidation. The pictures of the school are absolutely stunning and I can understand how children attending this school must have felt, it is almost something god-like sprouting from the top of the hill. The vivid descriptions of the school and the surrounding areas coupled with the photographs are amazing and it definitely inspires the imagination I can practically see, smell and feel the beautiful locations Whyte talks about.
Reading about the bright and slightly autonomous days at Munro College were pure nostalgia, hence the book’s title. I also liked reading about teenage life from the male perspective which isn’t something I have seen a lot of even in memoirs as some people can view their teenage behavior as shameful or embarrassing. Whyte manages to reinvigorate the simplest things like a wall and idle chatter with the virility and vitality of youth once more. I enjoyed the simplistic and idyllic scenes that Whyte describes in some great detail, while there is very little in the way of action or anything majorly exciting in the life of a teenage boy but it is just a perfect relaxed read. While Whyte’s life at this time was the epitamy of peacefulness and calm with there being no altercations or anger harboured at school apart from the odd caning, he feels looking back that these years prepared him for his life ahead and not just academically but socially and ethically as well. One thing Whyte remembers fondly was the diversity of the school and it taught him to accept people of all different background and how it helped him become a kinder, more selfless person within this strict but homely environment. It also surprised me that while he recounts these events he never once mentioned being homesick or desiring to go home, he was content with his outing days ever once in a while. Whyte also talks about certain teachers who taught him some valuable life lessons such as respect for one’s elders and not to abuse the privileges given to him lest he suffer the consequences. As I approached the halfway point in the book I found myself thinking like the author would have thought at the time, I found the jokes which were long since unhumourous for myself funny once more at times I was jolted by bouts of side-splitting laughter.
I was very surprised by how much Whyte remembered about his teachers and how much detail he devoted to talking about most of them individually. One thing I enjoyed about this book was there is no direction or structure to the memories Whyte is recounting he just documents them as he thinks of them meaning we bounce back and forth through the years of his education and the things that happened and the people he met in between. At times it almost seems as if a teenage Whyte is writing these words in a journal rather than his older self reminiscing of his life gone by. I also really enjoyed Whyte’s accounts of the types of foods they ate at school and here I commend his memory as I can not remember the majority of what happened in my school life it was if it all passed me by at once in a blur of colours, sounds and smells. I honestly believe for anyone that reads this book some of the things these boys get up to are absolutely hilarious and are almost guaranteed to make you remember some fun times from your own youth.
This book for me was great and make me fondly remember my own youth and some of the things I got up to, it was pure nostalgia and I loved every second of time. It surprised me and at times shocked me but with the book being so short I had no real issues with the book that I will linger one. I highly recommend you pick this up if you are looking for something slightly different and light-hearted to throw yourself into, I would also recommend this book for pulling yourself out of a reading slump or to take a break from more serious reads.
This book was sent to me for review consideration by the author.
Buy it here: