Laura's Reviews > Small Island

Small Island by Andrea Levy
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's review
Jul 12, 12

bookshelves: fis-list, 1001-list, pulitzerandrunnersupandmore, hf, 12-brilliants-in-12, xx2012xx, to-buy, atwi80, atwi80-read, library, favorites
Recommended to Laura by: Colleen
Recommended for: Every single person on this earth
Read from July 05 to 12, 2012

Wow. I wish that could be my entire review. It feels like "wow" should be sufficient. But in the interest of getting this book into the hands of as many people as possible, I'll attempt to do this book some justice. With NO Spoilers. No worries.

This is not a book I would normally choose to read. (I read it with a book group.) The description made it seem depressing, and just too "heavy" for me. However, Andrea Levy is such a gifted writer that she is able to breathe humor into even desolate circumstances and situations. I don't want to compare her with God, but "Let there be light" comes to mind. And this lady shines.

The story takes place primarily in England and in Jamaica, with small bits in India and in Virginia, primarily during WWII, and for a short time afterward. It is told from four different points of view throughout: that of two Jamaican citizens, who are black (Hortense and Gilbert), and two English citizens, who are white (Queenie and Bernard).

One of the things I like best about the book is the way it is organized. First, we meet Queenie as a young girl in the prologue. Then, in chapter one, we skip to 1948, to Hortense's point of view in the now, when all four characters are in England.

We get the opportunity to meet each of the main characters when they are young people, and we stay with that person until 1948. At that point, we dip into the now (1948), following several of the characters in short chapters before going back to the childhood of the next character, and once again coming forward now with that person to 1948. It sounds complicated, but it was seamlessly and expertly constructed. It didn't detract from the flow of the story in my opinion, but enhanced it.

The book tackled tough issues like racism and hypocrisy and infidelity and death while making me feel like I was in a rowboat, drifting quietly and effortlessly on a still pond bathed in sunshine. That is the power of Andrea Levy. She made me laugh out loud, several times, while discussing topics of great solemnity and depth, without being irreverent. She has a rare gift.

During the last chapter, I cried, laughed, and sobbed. I could barely read the last paragraph for the tears. After finishing the book, I couldn't stop crying. I was alone, but I felt like I wanted someone to hold me. I felt bereft. I love to read, and I usually read 50-75 books per year, but I can't remember the last time a book moved me this way.

This is a book whose time has come, and I can't recommend it highly enough. It is now in my Top 5 All-Time Favorites list. A book to treasure. A book to read again and again. And most importantly, a book I will never forget. Please do yourself a favor and read this book.

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Reading Progress

07/05/2012 page 9
2.0% "Chapter 1...looks like a winner!"
07/05/2012 page 32
7.0% "Into chapter 3 and I am loving this!"
07/06/2012 page 50
11.0% "A tremendous read"
07/07/2012 page 58
13.0% "This lady can write!"
07/07/2012 page 100
23.0% "Too hot to do anything but read, and I'm making the most of it!"
07/07/2012 page 147
33.0% "It would start to tick me off now, wouldn't it?" 8 comments
07/08/2012 page 257
58.0% "This book is quite lovely. It's at times brash, then delicate, it turns like a twisting ribbon. Writing you could swim in."
07/08/2012 page 289
66.0% "Good book, but I really wanna finish, especially now we're in to battle scenes"
07/11/2012 page 409
93.0% "Dying to see how this ends. Fabulous book!"
07/12/2012 page 420
95.0% "Please read this book *in my begging voice*. It is wonderful. Thank you, Colleen, you are a gem. I'd have probably never picked it up without you."
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Cherie Thanks for the recommendation. Excellent choice.

Laura You're so welcome! Did you read it, Cherie?

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