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. Intenselyautobiographical, 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. 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.
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.