Small Island by Andrea Levy

Small Island

Written by Andrea Levy

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Shortlisted for the Best of the Orange Best 2010 by the Orange Prize Youth Panel.

A novel about racism, prejudice and injustice in the post war years in London as Jamaicans, escaping economic hardship, move to the Mother Country. Told from four characters’ points of view, it deserves all the accolade and prizes it has received. Powerful yet light in touch, humorous yet high in drama, it is a most rewarding and touching read. Won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2004 and on the 25th Jan 2005 the Whitbread 2004 overall.


Small Island by Andrea Levy

In this delicately wrought and profoundly moving, multi-award winning novel, Andrea Levy handles the weighty themes of empire, prejudice, war and love, with a lightness of touch and a generosity of spirit that challenges and uplifts the reader. It is 1948, and England is recovering from a war. But at 21 Nevern Street. London, the conflict has only just begun. Queenie Bligh's neighbours do not approve when she agrees to take in Jamaican lodgers, but with her husband, Bernard, not back from the war, what else can she do? Gilbert Joseph was one of the several thousand Jamaican men who joined the RAF to fight against Hitler. Returning to England as a civilian he finds himself treated very differently. Gilbert's wife Hortense, too, had longed to leave Jamaica and start a better life in England. But when she joins him she is shocked to find London shabby, decrepit, and far from the city of her dreams. Even Gilbert is not the man she thought he was.


'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

About the Author

Andrea Levy

Andrea Levy was born in London, England in 1956 to Jamaican parents. Her first three novels explored - from different perspectives - the problems faced by black British-born children of Jamaican emigrants.

Her first novel, the semi-autobiographical Every Light in the House Burnin' (1994), is the story of a Jamaican family living in London in the 1960s. Her second, Never Far From Nowhere (1996), is set during the 1970s and tells the story of two very different sisters living on a London council estate. In her third, Fruit of the Lemon (1999), Faith Jackson, a young black Londoner, visits Jamaica after suffering a nervous breakdown and discovers a previously unknown personal history.

Small Island, her fourth novel,(2004), is set in 1948 and through the stories of both English and Jamaican characters it explores a point in England's past when the country began to change.

Andrea Levy has been a judge for the Saga Prize and the Orange Prize for Fiction. As well as novels she has also written short stories which have been read on radio and anthologised. She has been recipient of an Arts Council Writers Award and was the winner of the 2004 Orange Prize for Fiction. She lives and works in London.

Fellow novelist ANNE BERRY on ANDREA LEVY

Andrea Levy’s writing springs off the page at me. It is so full of energy, colour and verve. Her novel Small Island, rightly showered with awards, about the post war arrival of Caribbean immigrants to Britain and their struggle to integrate into a closed society, is a delight from start to finish.

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Andrea Levy
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Headline Review an imprint of Headline Publishing Group

Publication date

17th September 2009




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