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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 26 June 2017
This was on my required reading list for my degree. The book took some getting used to, thanks to Sevlon writing in the authentic "voice" of West Indian Migrant, Moses, during 1950s London. Once I adapted to this writing/reading style I found The Lonely Londoners to be an enjoyable read. Pages 92-102 were difficult and confusing (there wasn't a single full stop, comma, or anything to break it up).
Over all a good read, and a great insight into the West Indian migrant experience during 1950s Britain.
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on 27 May 2017
A bit tough to get into, but funny and informative- another study book
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on 15 June 2017
excellent service good read
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on 28 June 2017
Excellent book
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on 30 April 2017
Essential reading!
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on 12 March 2017
Arrived the following day. Excellent
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on 1 February 2017
Novel about mostly male Caribbeans who arrived in London in the lates 40s and 50s. Written by a Trinidadian of Indian descent. An interesting description of their struggle for work and the racism which was routine but their treatment of white women at the time was fairly unpleasant.
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A short (139 p) novel, yet one that wraps you up in the immigrant world of 1950s London. With the arrival of large numbers of Afro-Caribbean people, they face racism, the cold, the difficulty of finding work, loneliness and homesickness. As the somewhat embittered main character Moses observes:
'Looking at things in general life really hard for the boys in London. this is a lonely miserable city, if it was that we didn't get together now and then to talk about things back home we would suffer like hell. Here is not like home where you have friends all about.'
Yet for all that, there is the thrill of big city life, finding themselves in places they had only heard of before:
'He had a way, whenever he talking with the boys, he using the names of the places like they mean big romance, as if to say 'I was in Oxford Street' have more prestige than if he just say 'I was up the road.' And once he had a date with a frauline, and he make a big point of saying he was meeting she by Charing cross, because just to say 'Charing Cross' have a lot of romance in it, he remember it had a song called 'Roseann of Charing Cross.'
The descriptions of bleak, wintry scenes full of smog ('the sun shining...no heat from it, it just there in the sky like a force-ripe orange') with those of the eventual summer - girls, parties, hanging out in the parks; the new arrivals torn between going home and sticking it out...
This is a poetic read. Selvon introduces a number of characters in his novel - the workers and the hustlers; those who see the whites as alien and others who seek to be part of their community - so one doesn't have time to get particularly attached to any of them - but it evokes the atmosphere of the time brilliantly, particularly through the creolized language.
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on 8 September 2010
As `The Lonely Londoners' opens we meet Moses Aloetta who is on his way to meeting a group of people who have newly arrived in the city from the West Indies. Moses having lived in London for quite some time is an initially rather begrudging welcoming committee. This is the 1950s a period after the war when many people from many countries came to the UK to find their fortune. While a small amount of them did (and these were very few and far between) most people however ended up working for anything they could get and Moses in his heart of heart is homesick. He is there to meet Henry `Sir Galahad' Oliver and through these two characters and people they know we get snippets of peoples lives.

Selvon does something for me with this book which I both loved and found rather difficult all at once and I am not talking about the fact its written in a creolized voice, that actually helped the book come more alive for me. No, the difficult things is there is no exact narrative be it first person, second or third. It flits from scene to scene and person to person which whilst creating an incredible sense of London and its atmosphere at the time is actually rather confusing and disorientating. I couldn't get a grip on the characters emotionally even though characters such as the gutsy Tanty (who is one of the only women in the book and doesn't get mentioned much, the book to me really lost something on not having one main female voice or outlook) and Moses himself made the book really interesting in parts. I never became attached to any of them though and so, and this might make me sound callous, I ended up not caring. I also hated the misogynistic attitude of some of the characters like Cap, who seemed to somehow sleep with every woman be they black or white and treat them like garbage.

However I don't believe characters you don't like should put you off a book and it was more the alienating movement from person to person. I do have to reiterate that I have read few books that evoke London and hardly any which give such a sense of time and place so simply - no over description at all. This I think really saved the book for me. Selvon builds the city at that time in such a way that it makes the book worth the read for that alone. He also writes a marvellous section of summertime London when the smog lifts in a stream of conscious one sentence long over five pages which isn't hard to read which he should be highly commended for. There is no question he is a great writer I just wish I had felt a little more involved rather than at a distance in a whirl of people and thoughts. Maybe that's the intention though?
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on 28 July 2010
Bittersweet comedy about West Indian immigrants to 1950s London that perfectly captures the zeitgeist.

There are around 600,000 Afro-Caribbeans living in the UK, mostly in London and mostly descended from immigrants who arrived in the 1950s. This is an inspired account of what life was like for those immigrants and part of a chronicle of how much has changed in the UK over the past 60 years.

The story, which is very slight, is told as a series of anecdotes, many only a few sentences long, about Moses Aloetta and his fellow immigrants from the West Indies into 1950s London. Selvon marvellously realises the thought and speech patterns of his subjects conveying the excitement and strangeness of moving to a cold and potentially lonely city from a warm and neighbourly group of islands.

His cast of characters could be out of Dickens, the dissolute survivor Cap, Harris the proto Englishman, Sir Galahad, the newbie and Tanty and Grandma who have descended on Tolroy uninvited. Moses is the wise old bird who knows everyone and everything.

Although the lowest of the low, discriminated against in jobs and housing and having very little money, the immigrants pulse with life, energy and comradeship. London becomes their playground and they enjoy it like children - the great roundabout of Piccadilly Circus, and swinging through the glory of the parks in summer for example. London doesn't intimidate them or beat them down with it's size but rather they respond to it as if were a person, a relative such as a big sister to be loved and abused at the same time.

The book describes a variety of surprising interactions between the immigrants and fellow Londoners, including many and varied sexual encounters. These touch on but don't dwell on prejudice and instead relate more to strangeness and novelty so that the native white Londoners see the immigrants as a novelty to be explored and vice versa.

The work is loaded with comic episodes, or rather they are told in a comedic manner even when they relate to periods of difficulty and there is a real feel good sense to the novel. The sadness that is rippled through it and guides the title relates to the longing to be back in the West Indies and the good life coupled with the economic understanding that, like the London the immigrants have helped create, there is no going back.
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