Thursday, June 08, 2006


Small Island, Andrea Levy, Picador, 2004, 438 pp

Here is another book that I loved. The author is from England and of Jamaican descent. The story has four main characters: Queenie, an English pig farmer's daughter; her very English husband, Bernard, a banker; Hortense and Gilbert Joseph, who have come from Jamaica to live in London after World War II. The characters alternate in telling the story. Except for the prologue, which takes place in Queenie's childhood, the story happens in the present, but each character tells his or her own back story.

The author does each of the voices very well, which gives a full picture of the English view of Jamaicans and the Jamaicans' view of England and the English. With both humor and tragedy, a story of love, heartbreak, miscommunication, prejudice and the human spirit evolves. The arrogance of empire and the hopes of immigrants are both eloquently expressed. You really get the horrible difficulties that arise in day to day living when different cultures live side by side.

Reading this book was a pleasure on every page. It won the Whitbread Award for 2004.

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