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Small Island by Andrea Levy
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Small Island (original 2004; edition 2004)

by Andrea Levy

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,870None2,010 (3.88)462
Member:rabbitprincess
Title:Small Island
Authors:Andrea Levy
Info:Review (2004), Hardcover
Collections:Borrowed from library
Rating:****
Tags:england, general fiction, jamaica, saw the tv adaptation, 2013 CC Awards CAT, BMMDI, read in 2013

Work details

Small Island by Andrea Levy (2004)

1001 (24) 1001 books (22) 1940s (21) book club (17) Britain (28) British (41) British fiction (20) Caribbean (35) colonialism (19) contemporary fiction (18) England (130) fiction (433) historical (22) historical fiction (75) immigrants (51) immigration (78) Jamaica (172) London (90) novel (64) Orange Prize (91) own (16) race (33) racism (85) read (23) to-read (64) UK (21) unread (26) war (30) Whitbread (27) WWII (132)
  1. 50
    White Teeth by Zadie Smith (SqueakyChu)
    SqueakyChu: Both are novels about multicultutalism which consider Jamaican culture affecting England.
  2. 50
    The Other Hand by Chris Cleave (whymaggiemay)
  3. 30
    Brick Lane by Monica Ali (whymaggiemay)
    whymaggiemay: Both these excellent novels examine the issues of immigration and assimilation in England, though the cultures and backgrounds are different.
  4. 20
    The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai (kathrynnd)
  5. 10
    Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (tcarter)
  6. 00
    The Same Earth by Kei Miller (alalba)
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» See also 462 mentions

English (104)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (106)
Showing 1-5 of 104 (next | show all)
Good book, set back in wartime England, prejudice,
  mcorbink | Oct 14, 2013 |
I finished it, but the book didn't really draw me in the way I like my books to do. Because I can't put my finger on why, I'm giving it 3 stars. ( )
  ageoflibrarius | Jun 27, 2013 |
Excellent novel focuing on the pre,during, and post World War II experiences of Jaimacan immigrants to Britain, and white communities they interacted with. ( )
  reader68 | Apr 4, 2013 |
The book group I belong to did this book 2 years and I could not get into it at all. I thought, since everyone loved it and I have heard many people rave about it since, I would try again. Well try again I did with the same result - I was left wondering what the big deal was about this book. I found it monotonous and a chore. ( )
  DawsonOakes | Apr 2, 2013 |
I wanted to enjoy this book because I am a West Indian now and did the reverse journey - first world UK to backward little Caribbean island, but the journey was a lot more enjoyable than the book.

I finished it by an act of will and apart from odd scenes of violence or lasciviousness, it didn't hold my attention. It was such an easy read that the pages flowed into each other leaving no trace on my brain at all. Like the sea washing the sand clean with each wave, so did each page disappear from my memory as the next one was read.

Bye Small Island, I've moved on and forgotten you now... ( )
  Petra.Xs | Apr 2, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 104 (next | show all)
Levy's greatest achievement in ''Small Island'' is to convey how English racism was all the more heartbreaking for its colonial victims because it involved the crushing of their ideals. Gilbert is astonished to discover that although he can reel off the names of England's canals and list the major industries of each English town, most English people can't even find Jamaica on a map. ''How come England did not know me?'' he asks. Hortense's training as a teacher counts for nothing in England, and while she may have won a prize for reciting Keats's ''Ode to a Nightingale'' at school, she can't make herself understood by a London taxi driver.

Levy understands the complex relationship between color and class. Light-skinned Hortense has been brought up as a lady, and she initially despises Gilbert for his coarser manners. She also looks down on Queenie for being less educated than she is. The slow development of Hortense's respect for her husband as she begins to understand the challenges he faces (many of which she will confront herself) is one of the most moving aspects of the book. ''Small Island'' is too thoughtful a novel to promise its characters a happy ending, but it is generous enough to offer them hope.
added by kidzdoc | editNew York Times, Fatema Ahmed (Apr 3, 2005)
 
Small Island operates on a larger canvas than Levy's previous novels. Set in India, England and Jamaica, it is as far-reaching a work as White Teeth. Yet it is written in a plain, homely style, one that is keen for us to attend to the subtle shifts and twists that its characters undergo. Levy undercuts any assumption that race alone defines them, and is keen to highlight those symmetries and parallels in their life experiences. One can easily see it being turned into a popular drama. It's neither splashy nor experimental, but for thoughtfulness and wry humour cannot be faulted.
added by kidzdoc | editTelegraph, Sukhdev Sandhu (Feb 24, 2004)
 
Apart from everything else, Small Island is a great read, delivering the sort of pleasure which has been the traditional stock-in-trade of a long line of English novelists. It's honest, skillful, thoughtful and important. This is Andrea Levy's big book.
added by kidzdoc | editGuardian, Mike Phillips (Feb 14, 2004)
 
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Epigraph
Never in the field of human conflicts has so much been owed by so many to so few - Winston Churchill
Dedication
For Bill
First words
I thought I’d been to Africa.
Quotations
If a body in its beauty is the work of God then this hideous predicament between his legs was without doubt the work of the devil.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312424671, Paperback)

Andrea Levy's award-winning novel, Small Island, deftly brings two bleak families into crisp focus. First a Jamaican family, including the well-intentioned Gilbert, who can never manage to say or do exactly the right thing; Romeo Michael, who leaves a wake of women in his path; and finally, Hortense, whose primness belies her huge ambition to become English in every way possible. The other unhappy family is English, starting with Queenie, who escapes the drudgery of being a butcher's daughter only to marry a dull banker. As the chapters reverse chronology and the two groups collide and finally mesh, the book unfolds through time like a photo album, and Levy captures the struggle between class, race, and sex with a humor and tenderness that is both authentic and bracing. The book is cinematic in the best way--lighting up London's bombed-out houses and wartime existence with clarity and verve while never losing her character's voice or story. --Meg Halverson

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:00:01 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Returning to England after the war Gilbert Joseph is treated very differently now that he is no longer in an RAF uniform. Joined by his wife Hortense, he rekindles a friendship with Queenie who takes in Jamaican lodgers. Can their dreams of a better life in England overcome the prejudice they face?… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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