Joanna's Reviews > Small Island

Small Island by Andrea Levy
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's review
May 01, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: borrowed-reads, to-own

I had very mixed feeling about this book. I picked it up because Masterpiece is showing an adaptation at the end of April; I didn't know anything about it beyond the fact that it was about a Jamaican couple that immigrates to London right after World War II. I was expecting to sympathize with Hortense, I was expecting Gilbert to be a traditional sort of hero, and I was expecting a depiction of racism and bigotry similar to the depiction of those same things in the United States during the same time.

Very few of these expectations were met. Small Island was not the book I expected, but in many ways it was better. My favorite character was Gilbert, a sensitive, kind man whose experiences fighting for the British during World War II unexpectedly, and tragically, broaden his horizons to the point where Jamaica feels more like a prison than a home when he returns after the war. All of the characters are very real, and Levy managed to evoke many complex emotions in me and in my friends who read the book.

Despite all this, however, Small Island was not a great book. It had its brilliant moments, but there were too many things left unresolved. I don't know that I will read anything else by Levy, but I am glad that I experienced a part of history that I wouldn't have if I hadn't read the book.
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