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Small Island: A Novel Paperback – March 30, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
Four characters alternate points of view, telling their stories with an honesty and vibrancy that make the tragicomedy of their lives both realistic and emotionally involving. Queenie Bligh, a white woman with a mentally ill father-in-law, takes in boarders when her husband Bernard does not return from war in India. Most of her boarders are black immigrants from the Caribbean, desperate men and women willing to pay high prices for small rooms. Gilbert Joseph, a Jamaican who participated in the Battle of Britain, is one of Queenie's tenants, working as a truck driver, the only job available to him. Gilbert's bride Hortense arrives from Jamaica with her heavy trunk a few months later, ready to show London her superior "British" manners. When Queenie's husband Bernard unexpectedly returns shortly thereafter, life at Queenie's changes forever.
These four characters, through their often touching first-person narratives, convey their hopes and dreams for the future, revealing, as their stories intersect, their personalities, family backgrounds, experiences in love, commitments to the Mother Country, economic predicaments, and, not incidentally, their prejudices.Read more ›
Another thing that makes this book absolutely fantastic is that it is told by four different narrators, therefore, the perspectives are constantly changing and making the reader feel something new from chapter to chapter.
Levy's writing is realistic and vividly descriptive. Events within the novel are both wildly humorous and impossibly sad. In other words, I think she's done a phenomenal job of making sure her characters are not two dimensional. They are real, and because of that, one is able to deeply care for (and sometimes hate) them, which is what a true fictional experience is about. I believe Levy is a true master of her craft and I would read further works without reservation. This is a truly rich and rewarding read. Enjoy!
Gilbert Joseph, a patriotic, mixed race Jamaican subject of the British crown, enlists in the RAF during World War II. When he returns to Jamaica after serving in England, his small island seems hopelessly behind the times and beneath his acquired knowledge and skills.
Hortense Roberts, half white, half black, has received higher education in Kingston College and sees herself as more British than native, therefore deserving more of life than her small island can offer. Hortense and Gilbert are attracted to each other, not by lust but by desire of a better life, and forge their future in London through a financial arrangement.
On another small island, England, Queenie is the rural daughter of a butcher who flees to London to marry the bland but middle-class banker Bernard, who also feels called to duty and enlists. Queenie, now on her own, takes in bombed-out East End refugees, much to the dismay of the neighbors. When the war ends and Bernard fails to return, Queenie sublets their large home to immigrants, thus befriending Gilbert and Hortense and other coloreds. When Bernard finally does turn up, the cultural and racial clash, which has been simmering throughout the story, comes to a head.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It took me a while to get into this book, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed itPublished 8 days ago by AJ
Wonderful characters, including strong women, mixed with very interesting history about colonialism and racism.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
A tender, excellently written book. But not for a lazy reader just looking for a story. It demands that you think about the characters and the world they come from. Read morePublished 1 month ago by writer/reader
I very much enjoyed this book, by an author I did not know previously. She successfully pulls off telling a complex story with multiple points of view, alternating chapters... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Brian Lewis
I absolutely LOVED this book. Skillfully written with well-developed characters. This was the first time I'd ever read a book dealing with the subject of Jamaicans immigrating to... Read morePublished 7 months ago by ILuvGoldDogs
Surprisingly insightful. I found myself intimately involved with the characters, disliking each of them at times and cheering them on at others.Published 9 months ago by Theresa May
This book covers social issues during and after WW 11 but from a very different perspective. I loved the insight into the characters and their different ways of seeing the same... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Leah McIntyre