Customer Review

23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 11 Mar 2011
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This review is from: The Long Song (Paperback)
I had read and heard a lot of positive things about this novel before I bought it, and I was intrigued to see what Levy had to say about slavery, as well as the fact that reviews I had read indicated that she had a fresh approach and a lyrical way with words on the subject. I was hopeful that this book would be truly wonderful. I have to say that I was disappointed.

I thought the story was good, and the subject matter enhanced by the way Levy chose to approach it. Rather than the usual 'slavery is terrible' novels (which it is by the way, I'm not disagreeing with the sentiment at all), this is an attempt to give a much more rounded view of the situation. Levy focuses on the life of an 'ordinary' slave girl, July, and those around her. She is interested in the domestic life of the people, and how the bigger events which eventually led to the abolition of slavery, actually affected the people on the ground, as it were. I liked the fact that she attempted to show the effects of slavery on every life, old and young, black and white, rather than through a very narrow lens.

I really didn't like the way the book was written though. I thought July's narration was affected, too stylised in places and indifferent in others. I hated all the winks and gestures to the reader, a la Jane Eyre, and I really hated the stop and start nature of the narrative. The episodes where July's son interferes with what she is writing and she takes time out from the story to berate him, or offer us a lesson or comment on her wish to give herself a happy ending all really grated with me, and totally broke up what could have been an utterly absorbing story.
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Comments

Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 3 Apr 2011 12:30:40 BDT
I also found the beginning of the book rather unpleasant and had almost decided to give up on the 'the Long Song' particularly as I am male and it seems to have been written for female blacks. But now I shall persist

Posted on 12 Apr 2011 20:21:46 BDT
Miss S. Meal says:
Couldn't agree more with this review - the start, stop aspect was just plain silly and disrupted the story. Not one I would recommend I'm afraid!

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Apr 2011 07:23:11 BDT
Mr Bidmead
I hope it improves for you.

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Apr 2011 07:23:31 BDT
Miss Meal
It was so frustrating and it could have been such a fascinating book.

In reply to an earlier post on 15 May 2012 14:11:12 BDT
Last edited by the author on 15 May 2012 14:11:36 BDT
"decided to give up on the 'the Long Song' particularly as I am male and it seems to have been written for female blacks"

What a strange thing to say, some might even consider it a rather racist and mysoginist comment........ I do.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Jun 2012 05:52:32 BDT
Mr Martin. People don't always write in the most diplomatic ways, and it can be very easy to misconstrue comments that maybe aren't as charged as you suggest but which are simply clumsily worded. I am not responsible for the comment, and I feel that here is not the place to enter into a battle of either semantics or race/sex politics. It is a place to review a book, which, when I replied to it, is why I didn't mention what you have mentioned.

Posted on 19 Jul 2012 09:14:17 BDT
Managra says:
I too am finding the narrative style very irritating - I feel patronised - and am considering giving up on the book because of it.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Jul 2012 09:49:17 BDT
It's frustrating isn't it? A shame really because I actually rate her as a writer.

Posted on 9 Nov 2012 10:07:22 GMT
Clemma says:
I am only part way through the book, but tend to agree with this reviewer. To me the style is arch and irritating, it is presumably meant to represent the Jamaican patois of the time, but I find it a distraction. Having recently read "La isla bajo el mar", by Isabel Allende, which is also tells the story of a female slave living at a time of upheaval in the Caribean, I have to say that so far I prefer the latter, although as I read this in Spanish, I can't really make a fair comparison.
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