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185 of 192 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brutal but ultimately uplifting story
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...
Published on 14 Feb. 2010 by Denise4891

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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. 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...
Published 14 months ago by Barmy_Bex


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185 of 192 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brutal but ultimately uplifting story, 14 Feb. 2010
By 
Denise4891 (Cheshire) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Long Song (Hardcover)
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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141 of 154 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 300 years of human cruelty told in brutal honesty, 4 Feb. 2010
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This review is from: The Long Song (Hardcover)
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant characters, shocking but uplifting!, 2 July 2011
By 
This review is from: The Long Song (Paperback)
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
By 
J. Thomas "Lost&Found" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Long Song (Paperback)
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
By 
Boot-Boy (Gloucestershire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Long Song (Hardcover)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Different but good, 26 Mar. 2014
This review is from: The Long Song (Audio CD)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vibrant and lyrical, 26 Aug. 2012
By 
This review is from: The Long Song (Paperback)
What a brilliant book. I have never read any of Levy before, although I was aware of her as a Booker Prize nominee. But after reading this incredible novel I will certainly be looking out for her other books, including the critically acclaimed Small Island.

The Long Song is set on a Jamaican sugar plantation in the last years of slavery. Although it deals with some horrific events, it does so with a great deal of humour. This is in no small part due to Levy's characterisation of her main character, the sassy slave girl July. The reader is saved from being consumed by misery by the device of running a dual narrative of July as a witty old woman looking back on her life. She will not allow her readers to dwell on the sadness of her past.

Levy also balances some of the crasser observations made by her earthy heroine (her opening line is about a black woman being `rear-ended' by a white man) with the tut-tutting of her more cultured son, Thomas. As a reader we secretly delight in the graphic descriptions but are given the opportunity to save face behind Thomas' admonitions.

The language is vibrant and lyrical and Levy deftly handles different voices and points of view. I also enjoyed the way July and ultimately Levy played with her readers by declaring every so often that what she had written was completely made up then presenting us with a revised, purportedly more truthful, version of the same events. This underlines the view that stories from the past are simply a collection of remembrances which are tainted in varying degrees by the way the teller wants to be remembered.

Although this is certainly a clever, literary book (as it would have to be to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize) it should also find an appreciative readership with fans of popular fiction as Levy is such a fine storyteller.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting and sometimes unexpected read., 7 Feb. 2012
This review is from: The Long Song (Paperback)
[...]

Set in Jamaica in the 1800's this book follows the story of July, a slave girl taken from her mother aged only about 8 years old. July narrates the story herself and uses language that would have been her own. This can take a little getting used to, but obviously, lends authority to the story. It also enables July to step between different times and parts of her life. She would come out of the story and back to the present day. This brought out her sense of humour and allows us to share the reflections she is making as she writes about her life, not least of which is her debating whether what she has written is actually true. This makes for interesting reading!

July has quite an eventful life. She experiences both positive and negative results of living in slavery, which makes this a fascinating and intriguing read. Her personal relationships, which are so impacted by her slave state are very varied, her view of herself is really interesting, and how she sees herself in relation to others. This book felt very driven by the characters, and at times therefore felt a bit slow. However there is actually plenty of action, and on reflection I felt that the slowness came because I couldnt tell where the story was going next. It was like a wide river, meandering along, but with no shortage of things to look at on the way!

The history side of the story also appealed to me. I don't know much about what happened in the countries where slavery was when it was brought to an end and I learnt loads! It was even more interesting to read it from the point of view of the slaves. In particular the story brought home the difficulties and complications any such transition would incur.

Only after reading the book did I realise that Andrea Levy also wrote 'Small Island' which has been adapted for television and is something I would like to read. This is a book I may not have ordinarily read (it was a book club book) but I would like to read more of her work. If you have found books like `The Colour Purple' and 'Gone with the Wind' interesting, then I think you will like this.

Verdict. An interesting and sometimes unexpected read. Definitely one to try.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An authentic voice yet rather cliched at times, 1 Feb. 2012
By 
R. A. Davison (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Long Song (Paperback)
The Long Song is Andrea Levy's fifth novel following Every Light In The Whole House Burnin', Never Far From Nowhere, Fruit Of The Lemon and the critically acclaimed Small Island. It won the 2011 Walter Scott prize and was along with other titles on the blog shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize. It is the first Andrea Levy novel that I have read.

The Long Song concerns the uprising of slaves in colonial Jamaica in 1831, which was known as the Baptist War, or rather it provides the backdrop to our tale, as our narrator was not caught up in it but her story, or the bulk of it, occurs at the time of this upheaval.

It is constructed in a very unusual way, using a strange form of double direct address, we are first addressed by Thomas Kinsman, a printer frustrated at his mothers attempts to tell him stories who encourages her to write them down to be printed. When the narrative changes hands she too, outright addresses her potential, unseen readership. To further complicate the narration, in her writing about her past Thomas Kinsman's mother July refers to herself in the third person, but in the "present day" part of the story she refers to herself in the first. So there is a double authorship at work here, Andrea Levy is our author of a fictional story, and her character July is the author of her own true story.
To compound the complicated narrative, July is an unreliable narrator, not just through a lack of remembering over time but, as a willful deceit, wanting the reader to think better of her, or wanting to forget the worst of moments. At these points, the present day will interrupt the story as Thomas reads her latest pages and challenges her on their veracity. But Thomas is not fully aware of his own mothers history, that's part of the point, so there's always a chance that some of what July tells us may not be what actually happened. Despite the tricksy narrative web Levy has weaved, it still works and proves easy to navigate.

Slavery is one of those issues like with The Great War and The Holocaust, that's so important that it continues to be written about "Lest We Forget". The United States may now have its first Black President but the big White House he lives in was built by the blood and sweat of slaves.
These are Jamaican colonial slaves working on sugar cane plantations and we begin by meeting Caroline Mortimer who has travelled to America to live on her brothers estate. As her brother John Howarth gives her the grand tour they come across Kitty and her daughter July. The manner in which Howarth speaks of Kitty as if she were mere livestock, boasting of her leg muscles brings home the inhumanity and barbarism of the era. Caroline is then allowed to just take July from Kitty as her pet as if she were a kitten, and change her name to one which she prefers. And so July grows up in service to the white folks.

Despite it being called The Long Song it is not particularly long, coming in at just over 300 pages. The voice is authentic, but though the story is an accurate portrayal of the time, it is the kind of story that has been told many times, so even with its probable historical accuracy it can feel slightly like cliche. In terms of the 2010 Man Booker Prize I am beginning to feel that Room was the most affecting but it loses points for being exploitative in a way that The Long Song isn't. The only book I have not yet read is C by Tom McCarthy, once I have read that I can say for sure, but so far I think The Long Song may be the best book of the six. Ultimately, I liked it, it made me think of Jamaican Rum Chocolate and that's never a bad thing. I have had Small Island by Andrea Levy floating around my house for some time, and on the strength of this book will definitely give it a look 8/10
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A easy read on a difficult subject, 29 Nov. 2011
By 
J. Willis (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Long Song (Hardcover)
There are a lot of historical novels out there which feature slaves or slave owners as main characters and I've read a fair few myself. The Long Song instantly appealed to me for two reasons, firstly the novel is set in Jamaica, not America, and the slave owners in The Long Song are English. I honestly know far more about the Americas role in slavery than the English's despite being born in Bristol (a major slave port during the eighteenth century) so this novel contained a period of history I know relatively little about.

The novel is spoken in Jamaican English which helps to set the scene and is told by July as an old woman. July was born into slavery and was taken from her mother at a young age to work in her masters house. The novel follows her story as she comes into womanhood and it chronicles the drastic changes her life brings.

July, like many of her fellow slaves, is a survivor and The Long Song is not a tale of pure misery. Slavery is a tough subject to read and I am sure it goes without saying that the slaves life's depicted in the novel is a cruel and brutal one, yet among the tragic there is also humour and strength which shines through. Halfway through the novel the British outlaw Slavery which gives the story and the subject a new angle as the slaves and their masters struggle to adjust to becoming employees and employers.

One minor complaint is the narration which seems to divide reviewers. The older July is narrating the novel and aside from the fact that she seems to narrates sometimes on subjects she cannot possibly know, she also keeps interrupting the story to mostly argue with her son who is making her tell her story. By doing this the reader is made aware of July's strong personality still shining in old age despite all her hardships so I can understand completely why the novel was written in this way. But I did find it interrupted the flow of the story and I found it annoying.

Overall though its a fine book and one which I found enjoyable and surprisingly easy to read.
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The Long Song
The Long Song by Andrea Levy
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