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The Long Song [Paperback]

Andrea Levy
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (132 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
Price: 6.29 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

6 Jan 2011

From the critically acclaimed Andrea Levy, Orange Prize winning author of SMALL ISLAND, comes this breathtaking, hauntingly beautiful, heartbreaking and unputdownable novel, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and longlisted for the Orange Prize.

You do not know me yet. My son Thomas, who is publishing this book, tells me, it is customary at this place in a novel to give the reader a little taste of the story that is held within these pages. As your storyteller, I am to convey that this tale is set in Jamaica during the last turbulent years of slavery and the early years of freedom that followed.

July is a slave girl who lives upon a sugar plantation named Amity and it is her life that is the subject of this tale. She was there when the Baptist War raged in 1831, and she was present when slavery was declared no more. My son says I must convey how the story tells also of July's mama Kitty, of the negroes that worked the plantation land, of Caroline Mortimer the white woman who owned the plantation and many more persons besides - far too many for me to list here. But what befalls them all is carefully chronicled upon these pages for you to peruse.

Perhaps, my son suggests, I might write that it is a thrilling journey through that time in the company of people who lived it. All this he wishes me to pen so the reader can decide if this is a novel they might care to consider. Cha, I tell my son, what fuss-fuss. Come, let them just read it for themselves.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Headline Review (6 Jan 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0755359429
  • ISBN-13: 978-0755359424
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (132 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 34,524 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


'THE LONG SONG is is told with irresistible cunning; it is captivating, mischievious and optimistic, generating new stories and plot lines throughout the tale' (Daily Telegraph)

'Bittersweet and mischievous, Levy's keenly awaited new novel is worth the wait for all fans of her SMALL ISLAND' (Daily Mail)

'Slavery is a grim subject indeed, but the wonder of Levy's writing is that she can confront such things and somehow derive deeply life-affirming entertainment from them... Levy's aim, she says, was to write a book that instilled pride in anyone with slave ancestors and THE LONG SONG, though "its load may prove to be unsettling", is surely that book' (Sunday Telegraph)

'This is a terrific book: beautifully written and imagined, and full of surprises' (A. N. Wilson, Reader's Digest)

'As well as being beautifully written THE LONG SONG is a thoroughly researched historical novel that is both powerful and heartbreaking' (Daily Express)

'Thoroughly captivating' (Guardian)

'A novel such as SMALL ISLAND is a hard act to follow, but in her new book Levy has moved into top gear... She dares to write about her subject in an entertaining way without ever trivialising it and THE LONG SONG reads with the sort of ebullient effortlessness that can only be won by hard work' (Observer)

Beautifully written, intricately plotted, humorous and earthy... Those who enjoyed SMALL ISLAND will love THE LONG SONG, not just for the insights on the "wretched island", but as a marvel of luminous storytelling' (Financial Times)

'Levy brings her distinctive lightness of touch to what is otherwise unrelentingly bleak subject matter... This is a beautifully written and cleverly constructed novel that projects convincing personal relationships on to the feral backdrop of the Jamaican plantations' (The Times)

'Levy has a rare ability to channel the maelstrom of history into the most intimate of human dramas' (New Statesman)

'[Levy] has painted a vivid and persuasive portrait of Jamaican slave society, a society that succeeded with bravery, style and strategic patience both to outsmart its oppressors and to plant the seeds of what is today a culture celebrated worldwide' (New York Times)

'A tumultuous tale, superbly evoked' (Woman & Home)

'Levy has slipped through the cracks of history and beautifully animated a subject about which, on a human level, we know depressingly little' (Metro)

'A vivid, sometimes brutal and incredibly absorbing story' (Good Housekeeping)

Book Description

Praise for Andrea Levy: 'There is great skill in the way she presents characters and dialogue; she has powers of observation and an ear for language that make her books a pleasure to read' Times Literary Supplement

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
183 of 190 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brutal but ultimately uplifting story 14 Feb 2010
Despite the serious and at times harrowing subject matter, this book was a joy to read. Levy has created a wonderful character in the sassy, spirited Miss July, who narrates the story of her birth in a sugar-cane field and her childhood as a slave to the twittering, pompous plantation owner, Caroline Mortimer.

Her story is heartbreaking, but the touches of humour and pathos give the book a lighter feel than, for example, The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill, or Beloved by Toni Morrison. However, Levy doesn't shy away from portraying the savage brutality of slavery and the ignorance of the white settlers, who treat the slaves as commodities to be bought and sold (and the the case of the women, raped).

This is my fifth Andrea Levy book and I've enjoyed them all. Her first three concentrated on the experiences of young black women growing up in modern Britain, but Small Island and now The Long Song have seen her reaching back into black history and creating some wonderful stories. It would be wrong to pigeon-hole her as a writer who only deals with 'black' issues though, because her themes and characters have relevance and appeal right across the board.
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140 of 153 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
What a fantastic book that illustrates the cruel devastation that was the THREE HUNDRED YEAR OLD slave trade. Not since "Roots" has anything so moving been written. Three hundred years of beatings, unpaid back breaking work, women raped and impregnated by their massa's, pregnant women having to continue working in cane fields, giving birth in the very same cane fields and minutes later resuming work (their very survival depended on it), children ripped from their mothers and sold to other massa's. Grown men being beaten by their white massa's (male and female) and women abused by their massa's in front of their men folk - this is how the story opens and it must be said as it sets the scene for the rest of the story.

In spite of the brutality, the book highlights the sheer strength and defiance of the slaves. It is based around the story of a woman called July, who was born a slave on Amity plantation and lives through the turbulent years that led to its abolition. By page 95 things start to change but the struggle continues. The book is heartbreaking especially when you read how the light skinned slaves were fortunate enough to work in the house instead of the fields and the prejudice and ignorance amongst them that comes through. Although they were often the product of rapes, they saw their light colour as an advantage. The author also has the amazing ability to intersperse the story with funny events. I found myself howling with laughter to the point of tears as I read it on my way to work.

I salute Andrea Levy. I've read all of her books and all of them have touched me. As someone who is descended from slaves (my parents are Jamaican) it is particularly poignant and touching.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant characters, shocking but uplifting! 2 July 2011
I loved Small Island and this is the second Andrea Levy novel I have read - I loved this too!
A great insight into the age of slavery and a great story too. Miss July is a very memorable character that you feel you know and deeply care about.
I couldn't put this book down and read it from start to finish in about 4 days, which for me is fast!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning 23 April 2011
Every now and then, you may come across a book that stays with you long after you read the last page. This is one such book.

It does not need a lengthy review; the five stars speak for themselves. I am just so very glad I stumbled across this book and this author.

It is quite simply a breathtaking, heart-breaking and unforgettable book.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply a delight... 7 Oct 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The Long Song is the latest of Andrea Levy's books but the first that I have read. Having finished it, all I want to do is get hold of everything that Miss Levy has written. The Long Song is simply a delight, the life and times of the canny, cunning and beguilingly cantankerous Miss July, a hearty if sometimes harrowing recounting of the last years of slavery in Jamaica. A busy schedule meant that I took more than a month to finish a little more than three hundred pages. But even if I had had the time to read, I would have delayed as much as I could - just to spread the pleasure of listening to a unique voice, telling a mesmerising tale. Really, a very good book indeed, a wonderful story highly recommended.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy the hardback! 27 Feb 2010
By Diane
This book is beautifully presented and well worth the cost of the hardback.
The story is stunning. As with all of Andrea Levy's books the sense of a shared humanity runs through the story with the characters seeming very real and a balance of horrendous events and moments of humour. As with all good novels it is extremely hard to leave behind when you finish reading. I loved the fact that the story was written from the point of the view of the main protaganist many years after the events and the interplay between July and her son which link the different sections of the story give the narrative a feel of a retelling of real events rather than a novel. I was left wondering what had happened to July's daughter and would love to read her story! I can't recommend it highly enough.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but forgettable
Covering the transitional period in Jamaica's history - the end of slave plantations, gradual driving out of the white masters to full independence (not something I'd ever... Read more
Published 4 days ago by sally tarbox
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I have read this year
Highly recommended.

The story of July - a girl growing up on a sugar plantation in Jamaica.

Made me laugh, made me cry. Heart-wrenching and mind-boggling. Read more
Published 10 days ago by Jaqui P
3.0 out of 5 stars Different but good
I have been listening to audiobooks in my car for months now and I love it, being told a story as I drive round is great. Read more
Published 24 days ago by Barmy_Bex
5.0 out of 5 stars Different but great
This was a powerful story and well written. The characters felt real and held your attention. Andrea Levy has an exceptional way of holding your interest. Read more
Published 1 month ago by granny 1
5.0 out of 5 stars The long song
A very entertaining, thought-provoking story. The language is colourful and sets the scene firmly in the Caribbean. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Pen Name
3.0 out of 5 stars The Long Song
Got this as a present for the missus to read/Kindle. Has not got around to reading this one as yet however the item was delivered quickly and as expected.
Published 2 months ago by M. Livingstone
3.0 out of 5 stars Heavy reading.
For me, I found this book heavy reading, which isnt necessarily a bad thing, for me though I found that I wasnt eager to read it as I have other books. I didnt actually finish it.
Published 4 months ago by Maureen Barry
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book
Once you got through the old fashioned language - it was a really good book which was food for thought.
Published 4 months ago by DM
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic of slave memory
This book about the slaves and the small group of plantation owners and politicians who ruled over them. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Christine Makin
5.0 out of 5 stars Even better on second reading
I got this for my Kindle having forgotten I'd already read the paper version, but it was so well written and engaging that I just had to keep going - really enjoyable, satisfying... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Mrs Cathy Robson
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