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Small Island by [Levy, Andrea]
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Small Island Kindle Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 245 customer reviews

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Review

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

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)

'A cracking good read' (Margaret Forster)

'A great read...honest, skilful, thoughtful and important' (Guardian)

'Explores the Caribbean experience of immigration to Britain with great sensitivity' (Independent)

'Wonderful...seamless...a magnificent achievement' (Linda Grant)

'Never less than finely written, delicately and often comically observed, and impressively rich in detail and little nuggets of stories' (Evening Standard)

'An engrossing read - slyly funny, passionately angry and wholly involving' (Daily Mail)

'A work of great imaginative power' (Linton Kwesi Johnson)

'As full of warmth and jokes and humanity as you could wish' (Time Out)

'Gives us a new urgent take on our past' (Vogue)

Daily Mail, February 6, 2004

‘It’s an engrossing read - slyly funny, passionately angry and wholly involving’

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1379 KB
  • Print Length: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Tinder Press; Revised ed. edition (30 April 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0755355954
  • ISBN-13: 978-0755355952
  • ASIN: B002TXZTNY
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 245 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #14,885 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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By A Customer on 21 Mar. 2006
Format: Paperback
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback
I have not yet finished the book but have been compelled to write this review. Small Island for me has been entertaining as well as educational. As a black briton of Jamaican descent it has served as a historical account of what my grandparents may have experienced on coming to England shortly after the second world war. it also serves as a intimate view of how the British experience of the pre and post war England through an honest and emotive account of their feelings of a new multi cultural England that they had never encountered before.
subconcioulsy it reflects attitudes that both immigrants and inhabitants are still experiencing within England today. I have never read anything that attempts to do this. I simply must read on and I cannot wait for the twist at the end.
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