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The Lonely Londoners (Longman Caribbean Writer Series) Paperback – January 11, 1989

ISBN-13: 978-0582642645 ISBN-10: 9780582642645

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 141 pages
  • Publisher: Longman (January 11, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780582642645
  • ISBN-13: 978-0582642645
  • ASIN: 0582642647
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #139,650 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

This is Selvon's best work. It explores the lives of a group of West Indians mainly Trinidadians and Jamaicans who leave the Caribbean to live in London. They came looking for a better life and what they found was bitter coldness both from the unforgivable winters and the cold prejudice of the people they encounter. They experience hunger and hopelessness, discrimination for jobs and on the job but they are able to survive. It tells much about the spirit of the West Indian abroad. I would recommend this book to anyone who both want to learn more about West Indian people and who enjoy a good laugh. It is Selvon at his best.

About the Author

Samuel Selvon (the unusual Indian surname appears to be Tamil) was born on 20 May 1923, into a middle-class Presbyterian family in San Fernando, the southern city of Trinidad. His half-Scottish, half-Indian mother looked after the home, while his Madrasee father tended his dry-goods store in San Fernando. His mother, who spoke Hindi and English fluently, encouraged her children to be similarly bilingual, but Sam confesses that he eventually managed only a few swear words and common phrases. Young Sam attended two Canadian Mission primary schools. One in San Fernando, and the other nearby. He remembers fondly that at the latter, Grant C M School, he received warm encouragement in English Composition from a particular teacher. Sam moved on to Naparima College in San Fernando, another Canadian Mission institute, and during an undistinguished academic career, developed an abiding love for his two favourite subjects, English Language and English Literature. It was at Naparima College that he became a voracious reader. In 1944, Selvon won a short story contest with a piece submitted to The Naval Bulletin, a publication of RNVR. He wrote both prose and poetry, often discarding what he wrote. One poem, however, was kept, and was later broadcast on the BBC radio programme 'Caribbean Voices' while Selvon was still in Trinidad. From RNVR, at the end of World War II, Selvon became a wireless operator with the Port of Spain Gazette, and shortly after, moved to the rival Trinidad Guardian. He spent three years with the newspaper, and left as sub-editor of special features. Feeling that Trinidad was stifling his growing interest in creative writing, Selvon left for England in March, 1950, aboard the same ship as George Lamming, whom he had met before but did not know well. In London, Selvon, unable to secure a position in journalism, freelanced, publishing articles on various subjects. He later became a clerk in the Indian Government Civil Service Department in London. Needing a change, after twenty-eight years, Selvon left England in 1978 for Canada, where he resides. At present, he is writer-in-residence at the University of Calgary, teaching and working on a new novel, which seeks to explore the rich intricacies of the Trinidadian psyche.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 24 customer reviews
This book, by a Trinidadian, is definitely the best I have ever read!
Lyndon Baptiste
In between all that drama we also get impeccable story telling that is a laugh riot sometimes and others a tear jerker.
riccasia
So how do these island boys, rural boys, handle the city....just read.
Zeech

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By D. M. Farmbrough on June 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
The humour in this book makes it palatable. Otherwise the straitened circumstances of the characters would make you cry. The title sums it up. The post-war period in London was one of high immigration, with people re-settling due to the war, and due to the economic demands of Britain's economy for migrant workers. This is the story of a few of those migrants, concentrating mainly on the West Indian community, but also featuring a Polish woman. The story shows the daily lives of its characters, their difficulties in finding accommodation, the racism and fear they faced, and the rare examples of friendship from the quasi-indigenous population. The book is an easy read, and short enough never to become tiresome. Selvon occasionally sacrifices narrative consistency to make a few points, and this detracted slightly from my enjoyment of the book. On the whole, though, this comes highly recommended.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Hazel Saigo-Valentine on September 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
"The Lonely Londoners" is my favorite book of all time! With this purchase, I would have bought a total of five(5) copies. The other four however, have gone to the "loaned-a-friend-and-never-got-it-back" graveyard in the sky.
Selvon's account of West Indian immigramt life in 50's/60's London is riveting, poignant and tearfully funny. With realism and timeliness, he captures the unique brotherhood of survival that was the lifeblood of the network that sprung up in Brixton.
Wait until you meet "Tall Boy" as he greets his family at the boat train at Paddington. "All of we come...!"
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By notimportant sugar on November 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is Selvon's best work. It explores the lives of a group of West Indians mainly Trinidadians and Jamaicans who leave the Caribbean to live in London. They came looking for a better life and what they found was bitter coldness both from the unforgiveable winters and the cold prejudice of the people they encounter.
They experience hunger and hopelessness, discrimination for jobs and on the job but they are able to survive.
It tells much about the spirit of the West Indian abroad.
I would recommend this book to anyone who both want to learn more about West Indian people and who enjoy a good laugh.
It is Selvon at his best.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By dickymassiah@hotmail.com on April 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
The novel captures the cadence of West Indian speech, view of the world, and our initial contact with England in the 1950. The stories appear funny, and they are, but underneath there are vivid descriptions of the hardship and the bewilderment that faced poor immigrants unaccustomed to vivid racism, cold weather, and homesickness. The survival of the characters makes the novel and gem. You will never look at the pidgeons in Trafalgar Sq. the same way!
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Zeech on July 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
Only two books that I really could not put down (porn not included), 'White Merc with Two Fins' (the New York Times slagged it off, which is a good sign as any) and this Lonely Londoners. It's real, real Bitter Sweet - as in, yes Life is Hard, especially for non white immigrants coming to racist England (their "mother country") - a country lacking any decent Legal Constitution like the US (you guys really don't know how lucky you are!). My friend after reading it said, he understands why Morrisey could not happen in the Caribbean, meaning to dwell on hard times without using humour as a defense is gray like London's skies. The bitter sweet attitude of Sam's posse is an Island attitude that keeps us on the level. So how do these island boys, rural boys, handle the city....just read. There are two episodes of the book I can mention without giving anything away - look for the 10 page creole monologue about London at night and the sexual encounter between the Colonial island boy (could have been my dad!) and the Colonizer - white woman. Dammmm.... Once You Have Read IT, know this - there are 2 more books in the series.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By riccasia on October 3, 2007
Format: Paperback
Lonely Londoners is a short and engaging story about the lives of immigrants(west Indians)in London during post world war II. I loved the reading because it effortlessly brings every aspect of the immigrants' experience to life- the racism, poverty, and the exploitation of colored people during the times. This book is not only for immigrants though. It is for anyone who ever asked-'what is the point of living when it is so haard?' That is a universal sentiment that Selvon explores through the struggles of immigrants and their aimless quests that often end no where. In between all that drama we also get impeccable story telling that is a laugh riot sometimes and others a tear jerker. A must read for everyone!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By dragonfly on May 30, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
IN an era of teaching multiculturalism, this book by Sam Selvon is a pioneer and a work of genius and heartbreaking accomplishment. It's about the West Indian community in London after the massive immigrations but before the riots of the 1960s. Told in a kind of pigeon patois, this book is part picaresque, part travelogue, all the way funny and dark and lyrical and beautiful.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By "antofunnfunn" on May 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
i said it was "misogynistic and a titular letdown andthis is why:
It's VERY funny, up there with Naipaul's Miguel Street, but the title would make you think that the novel would go a bit deeper into the issues of immigration, adjusting to a new country etc. Selvon explores the community formed by these outsiders (the main characters are mostly male) but it is a superficial kind of network. The novel starts out well, describing humourously how difficult it is to adjust to the cold weather, and in 1950's London, a Jim Crowish racism with slogans like "keep London white" etc.
To give him credit Selvon does comment on the superficial relationships ate the end of the novel, so hey it could be that this was exactly the experience he wanted us to have: see the shallow networks thruout, wonder why the characters don't then have 1 of them in particular Finally come to terms with it)
But these men don't seem so lonely to me, most of the novel is one sexual conquest after another (not detailed, the expletives are also replaced with dashes) and women are constantly replaced with "a piece of skin", "a little thing", "a cat" "a craft" and the women who are detailed are either prostitutes, battered wives, gossipers etc. etc. Unlike the cover's mention of "living hand to mouth", these men seem to be all for sowing their royal oats, and whatever they earn is spent straightaway on prostitutes. so [whoevever said] this book shows the caribbean world-view, i beg to differ. Instead of seriously commenting on the racism, Selvon reinforces it and trivialises it. The men's antics don't expose "harsh realities" but seem to reinforce the xenophobic idea that the immigrats are lazy and without ambition.
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