Mae's Reviews > Small Island
by Andrea Levy
by Andrea Levy
Aug 13, 10
I thought "Small Island" would be good since it won not only the Orange Prize (Britain's literary contest for women writers) but something called "The Orange Prize for Fiction: Best of the Best." Not to mention the Commonwealth Writers' prize and a bunch of other awards. And I was right - I devoured this book. Levy's amazing storytelling sucks you in from the beginning and makes you care about the characters, Jamaican immigrants to "the Mother Country" of England right after World War II, and a few English people who show them kindness. Her unflinching portrayal of the different shades and deep-seated nature of racism, particularly in England, is nothing short of revelatory. I've never read a more clear-eyed and nuanced depiction in fiction. As for her writing style, she has a trick of first presenting a character in the eyes of another character, and making them seem slightly ridiculous. Then she switches to the point of view of the ridiculous character and suddenly they seem completely sympathetic and rather heartbreaking. In trying to think of words to describe this novel, "textured" kept coming to my mind. Levy is able to make her protagonists fully believable and the period details seem impeccable. I read a review that called her writing almost "Dickensian" and I can see it. It doesn't suprise me "Small Island" was made into a "Masterpiece Classic" (next on my Netflix queue!), reading it feels like diving into a particularly satisfying "Masterpiece Theater." Andrea Levy should get way more recognition Stateside! Maybe (but don't hold your breath) her latest novel "Long Song" being longlisted for the Booker will help this happen.
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