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Small Island [Audiobook, CD, Unabridged] [Audio CD]

Andrea Levy , Sandra Duncan , Hugh Bonneville , Sandra James Young , Eddie Nestor
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (200 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Oct 2006

It is 1948 in an England still shaken by war. At 21 Nevern Street, London, Queenie Bligh takes into her house lodgers who have recently arrived from Jamaica. What else could she do when her husband, Bernard, never returned from his RAF wartime posting to India? Among her tenants are Gilbert and his new wife Hortense. Gilbert Joseph was one of the several thousand Jamaican men who joined the RAF to fight against Hitler. Returning to England after the war he finds himself treated very differently now that he is no longer in a blue uniform. Desperation makes him remember a wartime friendship with Queenie and knock at her door. Hortense shared Gilbert's dream of leaving Jamaica and coming to England to start a better life. But when she at last joins her husband, she is shocked by London's shabbiness and horrified at the way the English live. Even Gilbert is not the man she thought he was.

Queenie's neighbours do not approve of her choice of tenants, and neither would her husband, were he there. Through the stories of these people, SMALL ISLAND explores a point in England's past when the country began to change.

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Headline Review (2 Oct 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845059999
  • ISBN-13: 978-0755336708
  • ASIN: 0755336704
  • Product Dimensions: 2.8 x 14.1 x 18.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (200 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,150,035 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Andrea Levy was born in England to Jamaican parents who came to Britain in 1948. She has lived all her life in London. After attending writing workshops when she was in her mid-thirties, Levy began to write the novels that she, as a young woman, had always wanted to read - entertaining novels that reflect the experiences of black Britons, which look closely and perceptively at Britain and its changing population and at the intimacies that bind British history with that of the Caribbean. She has written four previous novels, Every Light in the House Burnin', Never Far From Nowhere, Fruit of the Lemon and Small Island. She has been a judge for the Orange Prize for Fiction, Orange Futures and the Saga Prize, and has been a recipient of an Arts Council Award.
Her second novel, Never Far From Nowhere, was long listed for the Orange Prize, and her most recent novel, Small Island, won the Orange Prize for Fiction, the Orange Prize for Fiction: Best of the Best, the Whitbread Novel Award, the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. It has now been adapted into a major BBC TV drama.

Product Description


What makes Levy's writing so appealing is her even-handedness. All her characters can be weak, hopeless, brave, good, bad - whatever their colour. The writing is rigorous and the bittersweet ending, with its unexpected twist, touching... People can retain great dignity, however small their island (Independent on Sunday)

Every scene is rich in implication, entrancing and disturbing at the same time; the literary equivalent of a switch-back ride (The Sunday Times)

Book Description

This special edition audiobook features an additional CD of exclusive new material: Andrea Levy reading a short story, 'That Polite Way that English People Have', which was the genesis of SMALL ISLAND, and also an exclusive interview where Andrea discusses her inspiration and her work.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
143 of 153 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Small Shall Have Prizes 18 Jan 2005
Andrea Levy's novel (her fourth, and how ashamed do I feel now for never having heard of her before?) has already won the Orange Prize and the Whitbread Novel award, and is now favourite on the shortlist for the overall Whitbread Book of the Year. It deserves them all. (And this is a message, too: the Whitbread is now the award to watch. Didn't it daringly give ostensibly a children's book the Book of the Year award in 2001 for Pullman's exceptional The Amber Spyglass? In the Booker this year, Small Island didn't even make the longlist.)
The 'today' of the novel is 1948, when Queenie Bligh has given up waiting for her husband Bernard to come back from his service in the Second World War, and to make ends meet has let rooms in her house out to immigrants from Jamaica, among them Gilbert Joseph and his wife Hortense. And that is Small Island in a sentence. But it takes us back through the four main characters' lives before and during the war, each speaking to us in their own voice. The ventriloquism is elegant and brilliantly managed, making us sympathetic to all the characters in turn, and gripped by their flowingly told stories; so much so that when they come into conflict at the end of the novel, we are as torn as they are, and don't know which way to turn.
There is tragedy and comedy everywhere in Small Island, and Levy seems incapable of misjudging the tone, whether she wants to depict casual racism, tender young friendship, cold middle-class romance, or the numb relentlessness of twentieth century warfare. The writing is frequently beautiful, and she has a way of approaching a new scene sidelong, rather than head-on, that brings the reader into it with freshness and curiosity. Minor characters come alive.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Small Island 21 Mar 2006
By A Customer
The author brilliantly tells this wartime tale of a Jamaican airman who returns to post war England with his young wife to find a less than welcoming populace awaiting them.The "small island" of the title is the derisory name Jamaicans give to the smaller sattelite islands whose populace have less than worldly ways.
The airman and his wife come to regard themselves,in turn,as small islanders lost in the strange,cold London of the 1940's.However, the reader soon finds the true "small island" to be a Britain given to insular attitudes and racial ignorance.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book on many levels. 10 July 2006
This book is well deserving of its accolades; Whitbread Book of the Year and the Orange Prize for fiction. It covers the period at the end of the Second World War, when men from the Commonwealth who'd fought on Britain's side emigrated to the "Mother Land", expecting a very different welcome.

The story is related by the four main characters. Two are from Jamaica, Hortense and Gilbert; more British than the British, they leave their homeland where they are respected members of a community, to seek their golden future. Gilbert hopes to train as a lawyer but finds prejudice against him and has to settle for a job driving a Royal Mail van. Hortense finds similar prejudice when she applies for a teaching job. With her impeccable manners and dress sense, she is horrified by the coarse way of life in her new home.

They take lodgings with Queenie, a great character, who is letting out rooms to make ends meet while her husband, Bernard, is fighting in India. It is assumed that he will not return, so when he suddenly reappears, the comfortable balance within the house is tipped. He demands that these 'coloureds' leave immediately.

There are a number of themes covered by the book, but the one that stuck with me was the problem encountered by men who had risked their lives to fight against Hitler and deserved recognition, but instead were treated with contempt when they arrived on British shores as civilians. Also that there were people, like Queenie, who ignored what other people thought and befriended these outcasts.

Highly recommended.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars RAF Blues 11 Jun 2004
I read this book in two days, I thought a was reading the autobiography of my parents, except they came from Guyana. I arrived in England with my mother to Ladbroke Grove, via Liverpool in 1958. This book is accurate,poignant and painful I struggled to read past page 272, I could have written it myself. It is lyrical, humourous, sad, educative and evocative. I didn't want it to end. It deserves the Orange fiction prize well done Andrea.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Small Island - Big Novel 10 Feb 2007
This is the best novel I've read for some time. It manages to be entertaining, funny, serious and thought-provoking all at the same time. Some big issues are handled in a gentle and sensitive way. I thought the depiction of England during the war years was particularly vivid. I did prefer the chapters in first-person by the Jamaican characters (Hortense and Gilbert), but only because the insight and dialogue was often sharper and more colourful than that of their English counterparts (Queenie and Bernard). Some of Gilbert's quips are laugh-out-loud funny. It's a very easy book to read, and difficult to put down. I liked it a lot.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Believe the Hype! 26 Jan 2007
Everyone I asked about the book could do nothing but tell me it was `very good'. This got me excited about the prospect of reading `Small Island' as well as worried; could the book really live up to the hype surrounding it or was I going to be disappointed as so many times before when reading a `5-star' book or watching a `must-see' film.

I was far from disappointed. This is a beautiful book!

Small Island is set around WWII, describing the lives of 4 people, who are all affected by the war in different ways.

Hortense, a black Jamaican woman, dreaming of her beloved Britain, unaware that Britain is not ready to embrace her.

Gilbert, also a black Jamaican, trying to provide for his wife and build a new life for himself in London.

Queenie, a white British woman, who paradoxically is liberated by the on-going war. Allowed to be something other than the wife of an utterly boring man. A man, it seems she was never really in love with.

And Bernard, a white British soldier stationed in India, taken away from the comfort of his daily routine.

It was interesting to read how being overtly racist was allowed and accepted within British and American society. It was particularly interesting considering the current controversy surrounding alleged racists remarks, throwing into question whether people have really moved on from the 1940's and 1950's and are more accepting of `difference' now. However, the author does not linger on the victims of racism or give a one-sided account, but instead demonstrates various characters' (black and white) strength to overcome prejudice and fight for acceptance and equality. More than a book about the past, it is a book about human interaction - the good, bad and beautiful.

I enjoyed every page and would say: Believe the hype and read the book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Small island
Captivating story. Wonderfully narrated. Moments of happiness mixed with unbelievable sadness of tragedy through racial hatred. Sorry it's finished now.
Published 20 days ago by julie kings
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Fast delivery - as described
Published 21 days ago by Miss Joann Mackreth
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved the book and the delivery was exactly as described
Bought this book for my A level English Literature. Loved the book and the delivery was exactly as described
Published 1 month ago by Izzy
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling reading
I enjoyed reading this fact based fiction. The author has is able to draw one into the characters and describes the fact based historic events of the era.
Published 1 month ago by 3 legs
4.0 out of 5 stars A warm, witty and interesting read
A book about dreams, realities and 'making do' during and after WII that's quite a bit different from other books of this era as it shows England from the perspective of Jamaicans... Read more
Published 1 month ago by J Hutch
5.0 out of 5 stars A riveting read
This book has been around since 2004 but it is as fresh to read now as it would have been 10 years ago. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Book fiend
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great book
Published 2 months ago by teacherfi
4.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed the Long Song hugely and loved this book as ...
I am rapidly becoming quite a fan of Andrea Levy. I enjoyed the Long Song hugely and loved this book as well. She writes so well that even though all the point of views are. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Jaqui P
5.0 out of 5 stars A great buy and read!!!!
One of the best books you will ever read in your life. It has all the emotions and drama of a book rooted in a particular history period. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Nicholas Cumberbatch
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Wonderfully written, lovely read.
Published 2 months ago by spud
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