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Small Island by Andrea Levy

Small Island (original 2004; edition 2004)

by Andrea Levy

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3,4451262,489 (3.87)584
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?
Title:Small Island
Authors:Andrea Levy
Info:Headline Book Publishing (2004), Paperback, 544 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Small Island by Andrea Levy (2004)

  1. 70
    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. 40
    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)
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    The Same Earth by Kei Miller (alalba)

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» See also 584 mentions

English (129)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (131)
Showing 1-5 of 129 (next | show all)
I had never heard of this British author, but I took the book from the library and enjoyed reading it. It takes place right after WWII in London, when some Jamaicans who served in the British Air Force are coming to live in Britain, the Mother Country. The writing is delicious, the issues of race and colonialism are skewered nicely, and it ends with at least two surprise twists. ( )
  styraciflua | Jan 31, 2020 |
I really enjoyed reading this. Some sections are very funny, some are tender, other parts are just really sad. A thoughtful story that really made me think about the years after the war in England and the struggles and racism facing new arrivals from Jamaica. ( )
  sachesney | Sep 22, 2019 |
Didn't find this at all engaging. Perhaps too remote from my experience, but I think the characters seemed two-dimensional and their inner thoughts too hidden from me. ( )
  oldblack | May 24, 2019 |
Engrossing tale of two couples and the way their lives interweave. It's 1948 and Hortense and Gilbert have recently arrived from Jamaica- he as an airman in the war, she to join him afterwards. Meanwhile in England we follow the unsatisfactory marriage of Queenie and Bernard, till he is sent to serve in India... The racism they faced was awful but that is how it was in the early 1950s.
The book is narrated in part by each of the four characters, looking back on their pasts and writing of their present.
Really enjoyable book, keeps you reading to the end to see if the secret will come out... ( )
  Persislee | Mar 5, 2019 |
Read for colonial literature, and a book I keep contemplating again.

Small Island tells it's story from the perspective of four people; 2 Londoners and 2 people from Jamaica during the time of the second world war. Withing the book, Levy examines the differences between a person's expectations and the real thing from people and places to professions and even life dreams. Racism plays a significant role in the story as well, especially as more assumptions come into play regarding skin colour.

It is rightfully a book that everyone should read at least once. ( )
  WeeTurtle | Dec 15, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 129 (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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Never in the field of human conflicts has so much been owed by so many to so few - Winston Churchill
For Bill
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I thought I’d been to Africa.
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.
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