Book Review: "Small Island"

Nov 092011
Authors: Hannah Woolums

In this 2004 novel, Andrea Levy introduces a gripping and emotional tale of the post War World II era, when Jamaican citizens were moving to the “mother country,” England, in search of a better life.

Levy incorporates the point of views of four different characters, Hortense, Bernard, Gilbert and Queenie. As these characters grow and develop, the reader not only gains an appreciation for the sacrifices and hardships that the British and the Jamaicans were forced to go through, but also for the learning experiences and the changes that the characters make.

Although the shock of Bernard’s point of view leaves the reader with more insight about the troubles of the war, Bernard’s narration is less interesting, and somewhat boring to read. The other three narrators however, are an addicting attribute to the novel and its complexity, giving the novel its award winning name.

Hortense and Gilbert focus on their travels overseas, one being grateful for what he has and the other only wanting more.

Queenie’s narration focuses on what it was like to be in England during war time and the difficulty of helping the immigrants from Jamaica find their footing in England during a time of segregation and hatred.

“Small Island” is a quick read, with interesting surprises and new realizations during every chapter. The character all become linked in ways that they don’t know, giving them a closer relationship in their experiences than they are ever aware of.

Although this book was made into a PBS series, I urge readers to dive into the novel first and gather their own feelings and compositions of the characters before seeking out the TV show.

Levy creates an incredible tale of struggle, adversity and overcoming the cruelness and accusations of a racial world. You will not want this work of artistry to ever end.

 Posted by at 6:41 am

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