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3.9 out of 5 stars159
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 24 February 2014
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. I have read several of her novels and never been disappointed
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on 18 July 2013
This was a difficult subject and I did wonder how the story was all going to come together but it exceeded my expectations. A real page turner. If you are looking for a relaxing summer read, this isn't it. I absolutely loved it and would recommend it to anyone.
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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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on 25 April 2015
I read this in Antigua, two and a half hours on a plane away from Jamaica, where The Long Song is set but still relevant to the sugar industry that thrived commercial in the past on both islands. Beautifully imagined and written. Do read it.
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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 considered; you tend to think of abolition of slavery as a sudden overnight thing), this was quite an interesting read.
But somehow I failed to really care about July, our lead character, and although I quite enjoyed the read didn't find it anywhere near as memorable as Ms Levy's 'Small Island'.
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on 4 February 2010
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. The slave trade like the many stories of war, human cruelty and genocide should never be forgotten. Slaves were forbidden from reading and writing so those that could have documented their story are now long gone and there were no videos and cameras around to capture these stories. Nonetheless, it is a very important era in world history, it's reach was far and wide. I personally believe that much of the societal afflictions prevalent in African Caribbean and African American cultures today (particularly around relationships and family structure) are as a direct result of slavery, this is my own opinion and observation but when all is said and done, that's a different story altogether.

The book cuts deep but the author does an amazing job of keeping the reader gripped from the very first page. Absolute work of art !!!
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on 23 June 2013
I chose this book having previously read Small Island. I was not disappointed with the story and knowledge gained whilst reading this book. Though a bit of a slow burner, slow and steady is how this book is best enjoyed.
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on 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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on 26 March 2014
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. I listened to all of the Harry Potter's and then the Skulduggery Pleasant series, so mainly old favourites and books I wanted to re-read but didn't have the time for. Then I got to a point where my next book of choice hadn't arrived and I had nothing to listen to, my colleague at work pulled this off the shelf and said it was a really good book and that I should give it a go, so I did.

When I first started to listen to it I really wasn't sure, it's nothing like my usual kind of book and I wasn't sure if I would get on with it, but I decided to give it a fair try and my other book still hadn't arrived so I stuck with it.

This book follows first Miss Kitty as she works in the fields and then gives birth to a baby girl. From then on the story follows little July, who works by her mother's side in the fields until one day when she is 12 the new owner's sister arrives and decides she wants her as a house slave and takes her away. Brought up alongside Miss Mortimer, July learns to read and write and has some privileges other slaves don't have.

To be honest I didn't really know an awful lot about slave movements or Jamaica in general, but this story crafts the setting and events well and is actually quite a gripping tale. I don't know what it is that made me want to keep listening but I couldn't stop.

The book is read by the author herself on the audiobook and so she obviously knows how it should be read, she reads it in the proper accents, Jamaican being the main one but she does do quite a good English accent for Caroline Mortimer. She has one of those voices you can't help but listen to.

I certainly would never have picked this by choice and I don't think I would ever re-read it, but I did enjoy the story nd am glad my colleague recommended it.

It does have a lot of serious issues in it; slavery, love, murder, suicide, war etc but it is aimed at adults and none of it is over the top.

If you are looking for something a bit historical or cultural then this is a good book and a worthwhile read.
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on 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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