The Long Song
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The Long Song

3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  3,942 ratings  ·  584 reviews
Told in the irresistibly willful and intimate voice of Miss July, with some editorial assistance from her son, Thomas, The Long Song is at once defiant, funny, and shocking. The child of a field slave on the Amity sugar plantation in Jamaica, July lives with her mother until Mrs. Caroline Mortimer, a recently transplanted English widow, decides to move her into the great h...more
Hardcover, 312 pages
Published February 4th 2010 by Headline Review (first published 2010)
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Chrissie
This was a huge disappointment to me.
I found the depiction of the black Jamaican slaves positively insulting. Their plight and their path toward freedom is a central theme, but they need not be presented so degradingly.

The writing is wordy and convoluted. Get to the point. I do not want to wade through all these words to get the gist of the story.

The characters, they were all very unappealing. Not just unappealing, downright despicable. Whites and blacks alike.

If you are looking for a smidgen...more
Sally Whitehead
With a keen interest in the writing of Caribbean women, and the female perspective of slavery, I'd been meaning to read Andrea Levy for a long time. Given my personal interests her fifth novel "The Long Song" seemed like a good place to start. Yet despite being an engaging, well crafted read in the end I was somehow left wanting. Our somewhat unreliable narrator Miss July, herself a 19th century Jamaican slave now free to tell her story with the editorial assistance of her once estranged son Tho...more
Fiona Veitch
I have never read any of Levy before, although I was aware of her as a Booker Prize nominee. But after reading this incredible novel I will certainly be looking out for her other books, including the critically acclaimed Small Island.

The Long Song is set on a Jamaican sugar plantation in the last years of slavery. Although it deals with some horrific events, it does so with a great deal of humour. This is in no small part due to Levy’s characterisation of her main character, the sassy slave girl...more
David Williams
I came to 'The Long Song' having thoroughly enjoyed Andrea Levy's 'Small Island'. My expectations were high, and she did not merely match but exceed them. Her secret is in finding the right voice for the story, and in the female slave July she found someone to conduct us through the years of slavery and (so-called) freedom for the blacks in Jamaica with just the right amount of irreverence to deny her victim status, and an instinctive native wit to counterbalance the misery, or rather to give it...more
Nancy Oakes
Well, here's a lesson for me. When I first saw that this book had made the Booker Prize longlist, I was thrilled. I had read the author's Small Island when it first came out some years back and liked it so I was eager to get into this one. Then, when I picked it up and started reading it, I was a bit unsure, because my first thought was "oh no, another book about slavery." There's a story behind that remark: about a year ago, I had read a book about slavery that was emotionally difficult to get...more
Ami
Jun 26, 2010 Ami rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Tone Deaf People
“The Long Song” is a story about a woman named July, who writes a memoir about her life in Jamaica during its 19th century slave era. She is taken from her mother Kitty at the age of 9 by the request of the plantation owner’s sister Caroline Mortimer. July’s position at the main house on Amity Plantation as Caroline’s personal maid was full of hard work; her lessons learned during the early years were just as difficult, despite her escaping the laborious work and abuse associated with the sugar...more
Kate
From the first few pages, I knew I was going to get along well with both the book and with the protagonist and narrator, July. It has been a while since I have read a voice so vivid, so compelling, so funny but with such serious stories to tell.
As slavery comes to an end in Jamaica after an inconceivable 300 years, we learn about the life and times of July. House-slave on a sugar plantation with a fat and useless mistress, July overcomes a painful separation from her formidable field-slave mothe...more
Cheryl
I liked the mother-daughter story about two women who grow up as slaves, and the cruel things they had to endure. In fact the first scene with Kitty, is what really drew me to the book. Later, Kitty's daughter, July (the main character) is introduced, along with Caroline (her mistress). The use of dialect added just enough spice to the book. Part of the book also captures the Emancipation Proclamation--a nicely added twist.

Partway through though, things get confusing with the introduction of too...more
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: 2.875* of five

What am I missing here? This is a perfectly good novel, and the character of Miss July is well-drawn, the story of Jamaica is interesting, but...great? How? Where?

It's all rather one-note cuteness from my POV. The narrative drive is that these are the memories of Miss July. So that takes any suspense out of the book. I know she's alive to tell the tale, so who cares who else dies?

I wonder if I should read Small Island now. I would hate to take another tepid bath in the Jama...more
Stephanie (Stepping out of the Page)
Unfortunately, I feel as though this book just went over my head. It was certainly different to anything else that I've ever read because of the writing style and I did enjoy how the writer engaged with the reader, but it didn't pull me in enough - I wasn't intrigued and I never had a desire to read on. I didn't completely absorb the story as I found the writing to be quite confusing at times and because I couldn't properly concentrate, I didn't enjoy what I was actually absorbing. That said, I...more
Sue
I listened to the unabridged audio version of this book. It ran to 11 hours 20 mins and was narrated by the author and Adrian Lester. The story is set in Jamaica towards the end of slavery and follows the life of Miss July aka Marguerite who is born into slavery on a sugar plantation. Through this timeline we are given an account of the events leading to the end of slavery in Jamaica.

I enjoyed Andrea Levy's narration and found the story of July's early life very interesting. However, I felt that...more
Melinda Elizabeth
I am, and you all must be as well, sick of having to write reviews that are mainly negative. I enjoy reading and is it too much to ask for a book that delievers enjoyment?

Alas.

Anyways, The Long Song had an interesting story. Actually I'll change that, it had the potential to be a very good story. Unfortunately the nattative of July and her son just wasn't up to scratch. The interjections throughout the book, whilst I assume they were there to guide the reader through a fairly lacklustre story, j...more
Chris
Stories are important and the art of story-telling a fine skill. I love Ms. Levy’s “The Long Song” even though it pained my heart. Ms. Levy writes in a straight forward non-apologetic way that has emotional strength but limited sentimentality. She uses the narrator, Miss July, to give us the real feel of a story told in the kitchen or ‘drawing room after dinner. It is an important story to read for it probably has identical unheard twins in non-fiction.

We cannot forget the slavery past, especia...more
Mark
The mistake I made with this one initially was trying to read it in small doses. July, a former slave, was the narrator and i found that i had to get into her style of speaking and reflecting so as to move along with the plot otherwise I found myself getting frustrated. It is a book which is difficult to read as it really brings home the brutal nature of the slave trade not so much by piling on the physical brutality, though there are some passages dealing with this but much more by the horribly...more
Ari
Dec 22, 2010 Ari rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ari by: Tricia
I'm not sure if it's just me, but I've never liked reading about slavery. Even if it's a great literary masterpiece, I have to work my way up to it. This one intrigued me because I had read reviews that described it as 'humorous.' A book with slavery that was humorous? Hmm. I'm glad I took a chance and read it. It's not laugh-out-loud funny but there is a dark sense of humor that runs throughout the book. Readers will smile or smirk at the quiet acts of rebellion slaves engaged in. Ranging from...more
Kiwiflora
Andrea Levy centres her novel on a dark chapter in British history - the last years of a 300 year history of slavery in Jamaica. In the first quarter of the 19th century, July is born to Kitty, a field slave on the Amity plantation. Her father is the brutal white overseer, so July is a mulatto. Not that this makes her life any easier, but purely by chance she is literally taken from her mother's arms and ends up as a house slave living in the big house as the personal maid to Caroline Mortimer,...more
Ernestine
I am enjoying this book. It is set in the same time as the Book of Night Women but it does not take itself as seriously as Night Women. The people are very down to earth. The Europeans are very human and the enslaved Africans are rational. I do not have a feel for how real the reactions of the enslaved are given their life experiences at the time, but I would like to think that the Long Song gives a good picture. As in Night Women it was attractive to have a white man as a lover in the hopes tha...more
Amy
A Frances Coady Book

A few years ago I spent an entire year focused on titles relating to slavery and civil rights in the South...from the Civil War to the Civil Rights marches in the 1960's. It was a painful topic, and revealed bottomless ugliness about the way humans treat each other, especially when in a position of power. When I decided to read The Long Song, about slavery in Jamaica in the early 1800's, I wasn't sure if the geographical difference would change any of the perspective. It does...more
Shovelmonkey1
Apr 24, 2011 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Levy fans
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: man booker shortlist 2010
I sent this book to ApoloniaX for a birthday gift then decided i wanted my own copy. I've never read anything by Levy before and I picked this book because it deals with a fictional first hand account of slavery just prior to the abolition. I've read several books in this vein now and I have to say (apologies to all ardent Levy fans in advance) that this was the one which I found to be the least conpelling. Anyway below are a list of books, both fiction and non-fiction which I would recommend fo...more
Tara Chevrestt
I know it is probably totally taboo for anyone not to love this book, but I didn't care for it. There are two reasons why I didn't "dig it."

One: The narration. Everytime I picked this book up after putting it down, I had to "re orient" myself all over again. The narrator is July, a former slave from a Jamaiican plantation. She speaks of herself in third person as she is telling the tale and then suddenly switches over to first person and literally addresses the reader as tho she is speaking dir...more
Tayari Jones
Levy's previous novel, "Small Island," is rightly regarded as a masterpiece, and with "The Long Song" she has returned to the level of storytelling that earned her the Orange Prize in 2004. Her heroine narrates the beginning of the end of slavery in Jamaica, coming to a climax with the 1831 Baptist War, when enslaved men and women fought their enslavers for 10 days. It's clear that Levy has done her research, but this work never intrudes upon the narrative, which travels at a jaunty pace. Levy's...more
Diane Brown
Mar 09, 2014 Diane Brown rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Diane by: Afro BookClub
Really enjoyed this book.
Andrea Levy's book The Long Song is set in Jamaica during slavery. She brings to words the life and times of the Africans that were deemed slaves in Jamaica - regarded as property to be bought and sold by the British.

There are indeed moments that will make your skin crawl, like the consistent rape of the African woman by the British slave owner, the humiliation of asking Kitty to raise her skirt in the one scene in the field, the search for "acceptability" or "upgradin...more
Beata Bowen
Slacking on my Goodreads updates, I didn't review this book when I actually read it (few months ago). Now my review wouldn't do it justice. I just remember that I really enjoyed the story, the strong female characters and the historical background of Jamaica. Top notch writing. Funny and sad at the same time. Lovely.
Emily
I chose this book from the NYT Notable list mostly because I was going to the Caribbean and looking for something thematically appropriate to read. I didn't know whether I would like it and actually I wasn't terribly impressed with the excerpt I read, since it felt too florid and I sometimes can't quite accept a framing story wherein a character is actually writing down narration that feels so lyrical.

This book grew on me. The narrator is named July. Born on a Jamaica sugarcane plantation in the...more
Denise
An ex-slave woman is writing her memoirs for her publisher son after the Civil War. The cold-blooded brutality and callous regard for the "niggers" on a southern plantation comes at you like a slap of ice water. Mothers who sacrifice themselves so their children can live. Haughty white owners who show no more feeling for a slave than they would a horse or dog. And the rapes by controlling white masters and overseers after a young slave has toiled 18 hours in 100 degree weather and her muscles an...more
Lilian
In The Long Song, Levy’s narrator is an old Black woman who has been asked by her son, a successful publisher, to write her memoirs of slavery in Jamaica. The story alternates between her memoir of the 1830′s and her present day interactions with her son and his family. This is a difficult time made bearable and more--rich and exciting--because of the first person narrator.

She is poetic, tough, sly, funny and “unreliable.” I put that in quotation marks because her lack of reliability is only in...more
Dimity
When I started this book, I was surprised to see so many less ratings here than for Small Island because I was absorbed in this story about the end of slavery in Jamaica. I was excited to find this read because I wrote my undergraduate history thesis on gradual emancipation processes, including Jamaica and many of Levy’s sources I recognize from those days in my life. The author appears to have done a fair amount of research for this book and I appreciate that. Speaking as an American, I think L...more
TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez
The tale herein is all my mama's endeavor.

So says Thomas Kinsman, a Jamaican publisher, who learned his trade in Britain after his mother abandoned him, newborn, on the doorstep of a Baptist missionary. Thomas intends to publish his mother’s book – a memoir – very nicely bound, complete with sugar cane on the cover. However, he and his mother, an octogenarian Jamaican woman named July, who was once a slave on the Amity Plantation, definitely do not see eye-to-eye. Thomas tells us in his Introduc...more
Ellen
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Andrew
I purchased this book last year when a website (sadly, I don't remember which) did the contents of the 2010 Booker shortlist for a very reasonable price. I also found out about eBooks at about the same time, so I also bought the ePub version to take away with me on holiday. In fact I only started reading it on this occasion because I forgot to take a paper book with me on a recent train journey and so started this as it was residing on my iPad.
It is a very dark tale, as can be gleaned from the...more
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Afro Book Club: The Long Song: Book Discussion 7 19 Mar 25, 2014 04:08AM  
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In 1948 Andrea Levy's father sailed from Jamaica to England on the Empire Windrush ship and her mother joined him soon after. Andrea was born in London in 1956, growing up black in what was still a very white England. This experience has given her an complex perspective on the country of her birth.

Andrea Levy did not begin writing until she was in her mid-thirties. At that time there was little wr...more
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