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The Long Song

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  7,544 ratings  ·  850 reviews
You do not know me yet. My son Thomas, who is publishing this book, tells me, it is customary at this place in a novel to give the reader a little taste of the story that is held within these pages. As your storyteller, I am to convey that this tale is set in Jamaica during the last turbulent years of slavery and the early years of freedom that followed. July is a slave gi ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 27th 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published February 4th 2010)
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Average rating 3.70  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,544 ratings  ·  850 reviews

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Sean Barrs the Bookdragon
The Long Song is a deeply moving story, but it’s not what is said that is most effective. Indeed, it’s about what isn’t said that is the most powerful and intensely thought provoking aspect of the book.

The story begins with an aged mother (July) narrating her story to her son. He then, in turn, is writing the book we have before us. So everything she says comes through him on the page. Although, we presume, he sticks relatively close to her narrative, it is filtered through him. He wouldn’t change
Feb 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.25 stars
Following on from Small Island; this is another historical novel and this time Levy looks at her Jamaican roots charting the last days of slavery on the island. It is narrated by July, a former slave, and starts about 1831 the time of what was known as the Baptist revolt and goes to the end of slavery in the late 1830s. July is telling her story in old age whilst she is living with her son Thomas. The novel is the story of her early life on a plantation called Amity. Although nar
May 08, 2010 rated it did not like it
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 f
Tayari Jones
May 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is so deep, so sad, so harrowing, despite its playful undertone. The book's strength doesn't rest solely on the narrator's skill (she wavers between reliable and unreliable narrator) but on the diversity of the characters written about. Amity, the sugarcane farm upon which this dark tale is based, seems a simple, run-of-the-mill kind of set up, and it's owners, and slaves seem simple enough folk, but their story carries a lot of depth, especially right around the time when slavery is abolis ...more
David Williams
Apr 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
I have to start by saying Andrea Levy is one of my favourite authors. Her writing is always so beautiful and I wasn't surprised to learn that The Long Song was.a Man Booker finalist in 2010.
July is a slave born on a sugar cane plantation in Jamaica and it is July who leads us through life as a slave on the plantation. July sure is an interesting character. Completely unreliable from the start, witty, brattish and speaks her mind - I couldn't decide if I liked her or not from page to page but sh
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like Andrea Levy’s The Long Song. The subject matter is interesting—the last years of slavery in Jamaica in the 1820s-30s—and Levy’s outstanding 2004 novel Small Island was one of my favourite British novels of the 2000s.

The Long Song I found strangely inept for someone who has written such an accomplished novel as Small Island. If I had read it ‘cold’, without knowing the author’s name, I might have judged it the work of a promising (-ish) first-time novelist with a lot to learn.

The novel relies
Oct 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, history
The Long Song is one of those fiction books that provides a clearer picture of a particular historical era then any history book. In this case the time is the last years of slavery in Jamaica and the story unfolds from the viewpoint of a child born into slavery who lives through the end of slavery.

Without wishing to give too much of the story away there is one particular scene which was agonizing. The child July and her mother are walking towards the fields when the plantation owner and his sis
Sally Whitehead
Jul 26, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Claire McAlpine
What an astounding novel, and a natural development of the author's work as she too came to claim her own ancestry and awoke to who she was, her family and how they were all perceived. I loved it. It's totally unique, she narrates from both the inside and the outside, being in the story and looking back on the story of the life of a girl named July, the daughter of a black slave and a white overseer on a plantation in Jamaica.
Only she removed all the blinkers, and steps inside her characters an
May 30, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
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 introdu
Jun 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Despite hating the main character, July, as I think she was a spoiled brat who didn't appreciate what was given to her, I couldn't help but feel pity towards her. She did lead a hard life, as her choices were taken away from her even before she was born - although some of the choices she could make where not the best ones. But one must not judge, specially if never having been through a similar situation.

The saddest thing is to think that this story happened in the 19th century, in J
Renita D'Silva
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
A beautiful, incredibly poignant and very witty book.
Melinda Elizabeth
Oct 15, 2010 rated it it was ok
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?


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 fa
Richard Derus
Nov 17, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
I like this very very much.. Perfectly portrays how black people suffered and how, after the years of slavery, they maintained their new lifestyle.. It's very nicely written and the text is very emotional, Andrea Levy did a great job with it; she conveyed the message and delivered it in a very nice and sensual way that i appreciate very very much
Jun 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
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
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
Sid Nuncius
I almost feel I should apologise for not getting on with The Long Song. I can see that it’s well written with an original voice, that it’s a well-constructed narrative and that, obviously it deals with extremely important issues. It’s just that for some reason I didn’t engage with it at all.

I can’t really explain this; it’s just something that happens occasionally with books and no matter how well done it is, it just doesn’t do it for me. This is plainly just a very personal response
May 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Possibly the most cleverly written book I've read this year so far.
Lesr Kew
Jul 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Not an easy tale to read but July’s spirit made this story.
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
I struggled with this. Not only rather violent in places, but the language was quite difficult to understand. Glad I read it though.
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
Mar 19, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible-read
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,
Feb 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Levy tackles Jamaican slavery humorously, without caricatures and coonery, something that might have been impossible had the setting been America. But this is why I’ve always liked Levy’s writing: she immerses... (full review at

This book reminds me of The Good Lord Bird (which I loved too) in its humorous approach, but it’s much more upsetting, because the main characters are women. Humor and tragedy are two sides of the same searingly horrifying coin. Ugh, I don’t know. I don’t know how black people could live their lives amidst so much evil. There isn’t much I feel I can say about the matter of slavery, or about books on slavery, perhaps apart the same tired conclusion I arrive to – that there is no God or any other supr
May 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 perspect
Dec 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
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Turning of relationship between July and Robert 1 13 Apr 29, 2017 01:52PM  
Afro Book Club: The Long Song: Book Discussion 9 47 Mar 06, 2016 01:05AM  
Around the World ...: Discussion about The Long Song Starts here 3 14 Nov 11, 2014 09:40AM  

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Andrea Levy was an English novelist, born in London to Jamaican parents. Her novels chronicled the experiences of the post-World War II generation of Jamaican immigrants in Britain. She was one of the first black British authors to achieve both critical and commercial success. Her novel Small Island won several major literary prizes: the Orange Prize for women's fiction, the Commonwealth Writers' Prize ...more
“Laugh as much as you breathe and love as long as you live” 41 likes
“My beloved son Thomas did caution, when first I set out to flow this tale upon the world, that although they may not be felt like a fist or a whip, words have a power that can nevertheless cower even the largest man to gibbering tears.” 1 likes
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