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The Lonely Londoners

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  1,809 ratings  ·  110 reviews
From the brilliant, sharp, witty pen of Sam Selvon, The Lonely Londoners is a classic novel of immigrant life in 1950s London.

At Waterloo Station, hopeful new arrivals from the West Indies step off the boat train, ready to start afresh in 1950s London. There, homesick Moses Aloetta, who has already lived in the city for years, meets Henry 'Sir Galahad' Oliver and shows him
Paperback, Penguin Modern Classics, 139 pages
Published July 27th 2006 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published 1956)
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K.D. Absolutely
Aug 18, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Q&A: What sparked the London riots?
On Saturday, August 13, in Tottenham, north London, an ethnically diverse area where locals had been protesting about the death of 29-year-old Mark Duggan, a black man who was shot in a police operation on Thursday, August 11. This initial outbreak spread into several areas of London and other major British cities, such as Birmingham and Gloucester in central England, Manchester, Salford, Liverpool and Notthingham further north and Bristol in the southwest.
I’m reading a biography of V S Naipaul at the moment and reading about his Caribbean Voices period reminded me of this book, which I’ve been meaning to read for some time. Like Naipaul, Selvon was from Trinidad and was trying to make a living as a writer in Britain in the 1950s.
This is a record of the Windrush generation who came to Britain to work after the Second World War; their trials and tribulations, searching for work, trying to make ends meet (the section about the pigeons and seagulls i
This is a unique book, written in the same West Indian patois spoken by its characters, Afro-Caribbean immigrants to London in the 1950s. There isn't really a story, but a bunch of stories. Starting with Moses Aloetta, the veteran immigrant from Trinidad who is now responsible for initiating greenhorns to life in this cold, white city, we circle through the lives of a dozen or so other working class blacks from the West Indies. They used to think London was the center of the universe; now they h ...more
Aahhh what a sweet read this is. It brings back to you the joy of having ends meet, stress off, self respect on and sun in the sky:
So, cool as a lord, the old Galahad walking out to the road, with plastic raincoat hanging on the arm, and the eyes not missing one sharp craft* that pass, bowing his head in a polite ‘Good evening’ and not giving a blast if they answer or not. This is London, this is life oh lord, to walk like a king with money in your pocket, not a worry in the world.

Is one of thos
Emily May
The Lonely Londoners is a small novel that is really made up of several short stories about different West Indians who come to London in search of employment and with dreams of a better life. I think Selvon captures a sense of loneliness in these characters as he shows what it's like to be miles away from anyone who cares about you in a city full of white people who automatically believe you're a criminal. I love London, but I can easily see how it's the kind of city that can be exhilarating
"The sun shining, but Galahad never see the sun look like how it looking now. No heat from it, it just there in the sky like a force-ripe orange. When he look up the colour of the sky so chocolate it make him more frighten. It have a kind of melancholy aspect about the morning that making him shiver. He have a feeling is about seven o'clock in the evening: when he look at clock on top of a building he see it only half-past ten in the morning.."

"...listen to this ballad what happen to Moses one
[4.5] An excellent mix of kitchen-sink realism and picaresque, with entertaining characters. The dialect narrative gives a wonderful sense of being right inside a subculture yet is lightly enough done that it's still a pretty fast read. (It's so relaxed that it doesn't seem like a trad third-person narrative, more often like listening to an old man telling stories of what his mates got up to back in the day.) There is l great detail about the London of the 1950s and the eternal magic of the city ...more
Many nights he went there before he knew how to move around the city, and see them fellows and girls waiting, looking at they wristwatch, watching people come up the escalator from the tube. You could tell that they waiting for somebody, the way how they getting on. Leaning up there, reading the Evening News, or smoking a cigarette, or walking around the circle looking at clothes in the glasscase, and every time people coming up the escalator, they watching to see, and if the person not there, t ...more
Rianna Jade

Galahad got so interested in this theory about Black that he went to tell Moses. 'Is not we that the people don't like,' he tell Moses, 'is the colour Black'. But the day he went to Moses with this theory Moses was in an evil mood, because a new friend did just get in a thing with some white cellars by Praed Street, near Paddington Station. The friend was standing up there reading in the window about rooms to let and things to sell, and it had a notice saying Keep the Water White, and r
Samir Rawas Sarayji
A fantastic discovery.

More on this review here -
The Lonely Londoners is at once the most apt and the most deceiving of titles for Sam Selvon's collection of anecdotes describing 1950s London. The tales centre around the Windrush generation, where men, women and whole families made the long journey to Britain from the colonies. Selvon at once reinforces the loneliness that comes with being an outsider in the vast, cold and racially prejudiced London, yet he also injects a sense of bustling, local festivity, a place for hopes and dreams (both f ...more
This is a book of near-mythical status to me, one that I have known about since I was 10 years old, having read extracts from it in my Rhodri Jones textbook as a schoolboy. Those mellifluous alliterations - Samuel Selvon, Lonely Londoners - have stayed with me across the decades. Had I never come across this book, it would still have set off bells ringing in my head, no matter where I found myself or how much time had passed.

But as luck would have it, come across it I did - in Selvon's London o
This book centers on a number of immigrants to London, mostly black West Indians. Most prominently there's Moses, who starts out the book with a grumpy mood and a cynical attitude, telling a new arrival, "Though the boys does have to get up and hustle a lot, still every man on his own. It ain't have no s--- over here like 'both of we is Trinidadians and we must help out one another.' You going to meet a lot of fellars from home who don't even want to talk to you, because they have matters on the ...more
June Louise
"It have people living in London who don't know what happening in the room next to them, far more the street, or how other people living. London is a place like that. It divide up in little worlds, and you stay in the world you belong to and you don't know anything about what happening in the other ones except what you read in the papers. Them rich people who does live in Belgravia and Knightsbridge and up in Hampstead and them other plush places, they would never believe what it like in a grim ...more
Mindy Barrios
The Lonely Londoners, one of my favorite books, is very unique in its genre. I enjoyed the native dialogue of my people used in the book and the depiction of our interpretation of the world is unique. In every aspect the book reflected the true activities of our West Indian society, not with-holding the humor that we surround ourselves with and the Sunday evening "limes" at families homes laughing and reminiscing. These are traditions that we thoroughly enjoy and every family in the Caribbean wo ...more
رابعة الدلالي
The Lonely Londoners is the window through which I discovered for the first time the caribbean literature . The use of creole was so special that you may feel as if you are talking to a Trinidadian or a Jamaican person . It was funny and very meaningful. Infact the language used wasn't a pure west-indian dialect but a modified one regarding the fact that Sam Selvon ,the caribbean author , has two
anticipated readership both Carribbean and British ...

"what wrong with it? Galahad ask. is English w
Stephanie Marie
"Yet is so things does happen in life. You work things out in your own mind to a kind of pattern, in a sort of sequence, and one day bam! something happen to throw everything out of gear, what you expect to happen never happen, what you don't expect to happen always happen, and you have to start thinking all over again."

It may be a tiny, unassuming book; it may not jump out and grab you like a hefty best-seller-- but Selvon's novel has a lot of heart. I love the vernacular dialogue Selvon utiliz
Alex Sarll
As a grim day in rainy old London grinds a pig of a year to its close, a reminder that things could be a lot worse. Selvon dives into the lives of black newcomers to the smoggy capital of the 1950s, regarded with the same suspicion as each new immigrant wave before and since. As novels go, this is towards the plotless end of the spectrum - it's more a grab-bag of incomers' tales, and none the worse for that. The voice of the narrative is determinedly vernacular, and that makes perfect sense, whi ...more
Rachel Hirstwood
The vernacular language was a bit off putting to start with, but this little novel really was evotcative for me. It is about West Indies imigrants to London in the fifties, why they came to London, how they found friends and support, jobs and housing at a time when it seemed London no longer wanted them. I found it reminded me a lot of my own time in London, and how lonely it was to be in a city full of strangers - and I had a good job and not so great home there. For these people it must have b ...more
Joy Ramlogan
I just finished re-reading this prose poem to the west indian immigrant experience in london and how I enjoyed it. Laughed out loud when tolroy's entire family appeared in Waterloo station off the boat train when he only expected his mother. heard the longing in Moses' voice for home and also this place which is not home but addictive. Selvon's brilliance is his voice, you can hear the trinis, the guyanese, the jamaicans and the smart man nigerian, an endearing no-good anansi who survives and th ...more
Is this a 'classic' yet?
It is the first book to truly give a voice to the Caribbean immigrant experience, complete with vernacular.
The main character is Moses, who has been living in London for several years. Several new immigrants come to him for advice and together they form a sub-culture of British Caribbean Londoners. The narrative follows their day to day lives, mainly looking for jobs or women or a bit of fun.
I have Kwame Kwei-Armah's choice of this book (with Don Warrington reading an excerpt) on Radio 4's With Great Pleasure to thank for introducing me to it's existence.
First published in 1952 it is a fictional account of the life of male West Indian immigrants to London in the 50s, notable for the author's use of "a creolized voice for the language of the narration and the dialogue".
During the first six months of the novel's composition, Selvon in fact tried to write the book in Standard English
The Lonely Londoners centers around the life of Moses Aleotta, a West Indian, who has lived in London for 10 years. He makes a new friend named Galahad who is struck by the brilliance of London. Moses sees himself in this newcomer, how at first he was full of hopes and dreams that diminished during his ten years of living there, and knows that Galahad will become disillusioned. Though he attempts to not get Galahad's hopes up, Moses himself changes throughout the novel and becomes hopeful agai ...more
Phyllis Boumans
"Oh what it is and where it is and why it is, no one knows, but to have said: 'I walked on Waterloo Bridge,' 'I rendezvoused at Charing Cross,' 'Piccadilly Circus is my playground,' to say these things, to have lived these things, to have lived in the great city of London, centre of the world. To one day lean against the wind walking up the Bayswater Road (destination unknown), to see the leaves swirl and dance and spin on the pavement (signht unseeing), to write a casual letter home beginning: ...more
The Lonely Londoners lacks both chapters and a traditional plot – beginning, middle, end – but it is all the stronger for its loose, rambling structure and spirit. The episodes it relates are fictional, but it is easy to imagine that the voice of the narrator, who addresses the reader in the vernacular of Caribbean immigrants to the United Kingdom in the 1950s, is the voice of a real person recounting stories of old friends. As the narrator jumps from one brief tale to the next, revisiting chara ...more
The Lonely Londoners was another of the books to read for my Open University module coming up soon. It took me two goes to get into this book but once I got my head around the West Indian dialect (which the whole book is written in) it turned out to be a very easy read.

Lonely Londoners is the story of Moses Aloetta and his friends, newly arrived in London in the 1950’s and how they dealt with this new life, far away from their old homes. In the book, Moses has already been in the city for a numb
Kate McManus
I wouldn’t say this book was unpopular in the sense that it’s disliked, but I know that I, at least, certainly hadn’t heard of it before coming across it at University. I don’t really know if it fits the formula for a best seller (if such a formula exists, although I’m sure if it did that Richard and Judy would feature in it somewhere…), but I think it would be hard to read this book and not be touched by the sheer passion for life, and especially language, that saturates every page. I love its ...more
Orlando Fato
After having read a few books set in the Caribbean, by different West Indian writers, I thought it interesting to read about West Indians abroad, living in England. While I started reading this book with great enthusiasm, I kept losing interest as I approached the end.

"The Lonely Londoners" is an interesting book from a social point of view. It offers a look on West Indians who, looking for a dream of a better life, move to England, to the country that colonized most of the islands where they co
Due to the narrative style, this novel is not for everyone, but that style is exactly what I appreciated about this book. Samuel Selvon tells the story of a Trinidad man named Moses who has immigrated to London and finds himself helping others from Trinidad to find a means of survival in England. Due to racial issues, despite the fact that the West Indians are technically British citizens, they must deal with being treated worse than white immigrants, often barely managing to survive. The narrat ...more
David Dacosta
Samuel Selvon represents not only the Indo-Caribbean contingent of Trinidad’s writing ranks, but is also a major influential for Caribbean literature as we know it today. Although Earl Lovelace sits at the top of my list of preferred Trinidadian authors, The Lonely Londoners was published an entire decade before Lovelace’s 1966 debut While Gods Are Falling, making Selvon a forefather to a generation of writers who emerged from the island, and region by extension.

Reading a novella that was writt
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Samuel Selvon (1923–1994) was a Trinidad-born writer. Selvon was educated at Naparima College, San Fernando before moving to London, England in the 1950s, and later to Alberta, Canada. He is known for novels such as The Lonely Londoners (1956) and Moses Ascending (1975). His novel A Brighter Sun (1952), detailing the construction of the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway in Trinidad through the eyes of y ...more
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“It ain't have no place in the world that exactly like a place where a lot of men get together to look for work and draw money from the Welfare State while they ain't working. Is a kind of place where hate and disgust and avarice and malice and sympathy and sorrow and pity all mix up. Is a place where everyone is your enemy and your friend.” 3 likes
“It was a summer night: laughter fell softly: it was the sort of night that if you wasn't making love to a woman you feel like you was the only person in the world like that” 3 likes
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