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2014 Group Reads > Small Island: August 1 -- August 30

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message 1: by Londa (last edited Aug 01, 2014 07:23AM) (new)


message 2: by Londa (last edited Aug 26, 2014 10:39AM) (new)

Londa (londalocs) | 1526 comments Reading Schedule (Open Discussion Dates)


Chapter 1 -- 10 *** Friday, August 8 *** Message 24
Chapter 11 -- 22 *** Thursday, August 14 *** Message 77
Chapter 23 -- End of Book *** Tuesday, August 26 *** Message 92


message 3: by Londa (new)

Londa (londalocs) | 1526 comments I am excited to start discussing this one. I picked up my copy from the library earlier this week.

Who else will be joining?

There is a BBC film based on this book. Has anyone seen it?


message 4: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 1078 comments I hope everyone who reads this book - enjoys it as much as I did. I read it a couple of years ago. I gave this book 5 stars.

And, yes I saw the film. But it was a little while after I had read the book.


Anastasia Kinderman | 942 comments I've got it from the library as well.


message 6: by M. J. (new)

M. J. (goodreadscom007pandas) | 22 comments I just arrived back from the library with the book and DVD. I look forward to discussing this novel.


message 7: by kisha, The Clean Up Lady (new)

kisha | 3907 comments Mod
I'm gonna pick it up Monday. I've been slacking on my reading so I'm so excited to get back in the swing of things.


message 8: by Lulu, The Book Reader who could. (new)

Lulu (lulureads365) | 2489 comments Mod
I've got my copy. I didn't know it was a movie!


message 9: by Tracey (new)

Tracey Hook | 48 comments I'll look for it at the library.


message 10: by Londa (new)

Londa (londalocs) | 1526 comments Glad to see we have so many readers! If you didn't see above...we will start discussing Chapter 1 - 10 on Friday, 8-8


message 11: by M. J. (new)

M. J. (goodreadscom007pandas) | 22 comments Hey Londa,
Is there any particular time on Friday or is this a continuous exchange throughout the day?


message 12: by Londa (new)

Londa (londalocs) | 1526 comments It will be a continuous exchange. I usually try to post a summary and maybe a question or two to spark discussion.

Feel free to make general (non-spoiler) type comments at any time.


message 13: by Tracey (new)

Tracey Hook | 48 comments Ok, can't wait.


message 14: by A.D. (new)

A.D. Koboah (adkoboah) | 261 comments I've seen the BBC adaptation and thought it was really good. Benedict Cumberbatch was in it as well as Naomie Harris.


Anastasia Kinderman | 942 comments A.D. wrote: "I've seen the BBC adaptation and thought it was really good. Benedict Cumberbatch was in it as well as Naomie Harris."

He's like in everything O.o


message 16: by A.D. (new)

A.D. Koboah (adkoboah) | 261 comments Anastasia wrote: "A.D. wrote: "I've seen the BBC adaptation and thought it was really good. Benedict Cumberbatch was in it as well as Naomie Harris."

He's like in everything O.o"


lol. I know. But he is a brilliant actor :-)


message 17: by A.D. (new)

A.D. Koboah (adkoboah) | 261 comments Londa, do you think we could have separate threads for each section of the novel?


message 18: by Londa (new)

Londa (londalocs) | 1526 comments A.D. Good suggestion, but we have so many book discussion threads, I don't want to flood the board with more. We might do this in the future though, if we change the volume of our group reads.


message 19: by A.D. (new)

A.D. Koboah (adkoboah) | 261 comments Cool:-)


message 20: by Londa (new)

Londa (londalocs) | 1526 comments I am really enjoying this book so far. I didn't expect it to be a funny book, but it has had me laughing more than once.

Levy has done a great job bringing all of the characters to life.


message 21: by A.D. (new)

A.D. Koboah (adkoboah) | 261 comments I thought the characters were really realistic, so much so that I just really did not like Hortense. That made it kind of difficult to read at times, the fact that she was not very likeable.


message 22: by Londa (new)

Londa (londalocs) | 1526 comments Hortense is definitely a snob! I am hoping she gets an attitude adjustment, but I'm not counting on it.


message 23: by Londa (new)

Londa (londalocs) | 1526 comments Chapter 1 -- 10 *** OPEN DISCUSSION BELOW THIS POST(SPOILERS) ***

Hortense Joseph arrives in London from Jamaica in 1948 with her life in her suitcase, her heart broken, her resolve intact. Her husband, Gilbert Joseph, returns from the war expecting to be received as a hero, but finds his status as a black man in Britain to be second class. His white landlady, Queenie, raised as a farmer's daughter, befriends Gilbert, and later Hortense, with innocence and courage, until the unexpected arrival of her husband, Bernard, who returns from combat with issues of his own to resolve.

Told in these four voices, Small Island is a courageous novel of tender emotion and sparkling wit, of crossings taken and passages lost, of shattering compassion and of reckless optimism in the face of insurmountable barriers---in short, an encapsulation of the immigrant's life.



message 24: by Londa (new)

Londa (londalocs) | 1526 comments I haven't read about this period of West Indian migration to the UK, so I did a little online research. This website gives a good summary of the what, when, who, and whys.

http://www.exodus2013.co.uk/on-the-bu...


message 25: by Londa (new)

Londa (londalocs) | 1526 comments In the Prologue we meet a young Queenie Buxton and she describes her visit to the Empire Exhibition and her first close encounter with an African.

This short section demonstrates perfectly the prevailing attitudes and belief of time towards the people of the colonies.

Some quotes from that section that do a good job summing that up

She can't understand what I'm saying. They're not civilized. They only understand drums.

Father said later that this African man I was made to shake hands with would have been a chief or a prince in Africa. Evidently, when they speak English you know that they have learned to be civilized - taught English by the white man...

Father said something I will never forget. He said, 'See here, Queenie. Look around. You've got the whole world at your feet, lass.



message 26: by Londa (new)

Londa (londalocs) | 1526 comments This book seems to have 2 main time periods that it flips between. Before and 1948. The narrator could be any of 4 characters Queenie, Hortense, Gilbert, and Bernard.

In these first 10 chapters we mostly hear from Hortense.

The first thing that struck me about her was how hard she was trying to speak perfect English. So hard in fact that most of the people she encounters don't understand what she is saying. LOL

Later we see that she has a very different ideal of what England was supposed to be like compared to the actual reality.

"What does everyone think of Hortense at this point? Did her actions shock you? Do you think she is in love with Gilbert (or ever will be)"


message 27: by A.D. (new)

A.D. Koboah (adkoboah) | 261 comments I read this ages ago but from what I can remember, in terms of her behaviour regarding Gilbert, (view spoiler) she did like him, but didn't want to admit it to herself as she is such a snob and thinks she is above him in a lot of ways.


message 28: by Londa (last edited Aug 08, 2014 10:36AM) (new)

Londa (londalocs) | 1526 comments You remembered correctly, A.D. Her boyfriend thievery did occur in these chapters. I was honestly shocked. When I first realized Gilbert was Celia's boyfriend, I thought Celia was going to get killed or something. I didn't suspect that Miss Muckfoot (lol) would be that conniving and cruel. I thought she really cared for Celia.

As for Gilbert, I really love his character. He seems like someone you can't help but to like.


message 29: by A.D. (new)

A.D. Koboah (adkoboah) | 261 comments Londa wrote: "You remembered correctly, A.D. Her boyfriend thievery did occur in these chapters. I was honestly shocked. When I first realized Gilbert was Celia's boyfriend, I thought Celia was going to get kill..."

lol. Yeah, Gilbert's character is really likeable and funny.


message 30: by M. J. (new)

M. J. (goodreadscom007pandas) | 22 comments Londa wrote: "Hortense is definitely a snob! I am hoping she gets an attitude adjustment, but I'm not counting on it."

Yes she is but yet a proper snob.


message 31: by M. J. (new)

M. J. (goodreadscom007pandas) | 22 comments In chapter 7, I was shocked at how Hortense's English manners easily over shadowed by her dreams and desires to leave the Island with the intended of her best friend?

I suspect her attitudes towards other Jamaicans who she felt beneath her was her reasoning for taking such drastic action of Marrying Gilbert.

I was shocked in seeing how she easily made the decision to leave without giving it any thought.

I think she will learn to love poor Gilbert


message 32: by Londa (new)

Londa (londalocs) | 1526 comments I think you are right Marty. She thought so little of them, that she felt it was her RIGHT to go to England. Who was Celia to have that chance.

Her attitude toward the family she was staying with was especially telling. She invited Celia over to display how awful they were, but Celia ended up really liking them.

-----------------------------------

What did you all think of the honeymoon scene?

I thought it was hilarious. I almost can't believe she was that naïve though.


message 33: by M. J. (new)

M. J. (goodreadscom007pandas) | 22 comments I don't think Hortense was naive, I believe Hortense mental ideas were focused on leaving Jamaica, more than accepting or considering the idea she may have to consummate her marriage with Gilbert.

Gilbert displayed a gentleman's respect for Hortense refusal's to consummate their relationship, more than a large majority of men would have even upon her arrival in England.


message 34: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 1078 comments Here is a link to a podcast with the author as she discusses her book.

There is also other links to interesting information on this site as this books was a Guardian Book Club read.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/audi...


message 35: by Londa (new)

Londa (londalocs) | 1526 comments Thanks Beverly! I listened to portions of it just now, and I highly recommend it. I will listen to the rest later.

---------------------------

Marty wrote: "I don't think Hortense was naive, I believe Hortense mental ideas were focused on leaving Jamaica, more than accepting or considering the idea she may have to consummate her marriage with Gilbert...."

True. She saw it more as a business deal to get what she wanted.


message 36: by M. J. (new)

M. J. (goodreadscom007pandas) | 22 comments Beverly wrote: "Here is a link to a podcast with the author as she discusses her book.

There is also other links to interesting information on this site as this books was a Guardian Book Club read.

http://www.th..."


Hey thanks Beverly, this Guardian Book Club Read is really good.


message 37: by Lulu, The Book Reader who could. (new)

Lulu (lulureads365) | 2489 comments Mod
I just opened this one up. Is her accent really that bad? (This is tickling me). The book is written in perfect English, so I don't know if she's speaking Patois or what. Of course UK English and American English are different.


message 38: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 1078 comments Lulu wrote: "I just opened this one up. Is her accent really that bad? (This is tickling me). The book is written in perfect English, so I don't know if she's speaking Patois or what. Of course UK English and A..."

LOL - I did not think her accent was difficult. Many I am use to the different UK English accents.


message 39: by A.D. (new)

A.D. Koboah (adkoboah) | 261 comments Just harking back to what people have said about Hortense seeing herself as above other Jamaicans because she aspires to be more English or thinks she is. I think all people from the West Indies and former British Colonies had that kind of mentality regarding England, and it was only when they got to the motherland expecting to be welcomed with open arms and received the opposite treatment, that their perceptions of England, and their place in English society changed. As for the wedding night - I think she really was that naive lol.

The other thing that struck me about the novel was how authentic the different voices were. At times when reading sections from Queenie or Bernard's POV, I actually forgot that it was written by a black female.


message 40: by Londa (new)

Londa (londalocs) | 1526 comments Lulu wrote: "I just opened this one up. Is her accent really that bad? (This is tickling me). The book is written in perfect English, so I don't know if she's speaking Patois or what. Of course UK English and A..."

I didn't think her accent was tripping them up. I think it was her use of excessively 'formal' English. She was using fancy terminology instead of speaking in the 'common' everyday English. She probably expected everyone to speak like she did, but instead she was met with the slang of the day.

I have read in more than one American immigration novel, that the immigrants felt as though they used better grammar than the Americans. In many instances, they probably do. There is a big difference between learned English and what is actually spoken on the street.


message 41: by Londa (new)

Londa (londalocs) | 1526 comments A.D. wrote: "The other thing that struck me about the novel was how authentic the different voices were. At times when reading sections from Queenie or Bernard's POV, I actually forgot that it was written by a black female. .."

You can really tell that it is an award winning novel. The characters come alive. I was thinking about a certain section today (Gilbert and Hortense's argument about the room), and in my thoughts I could 'hear' their voices. I had to remind myself that I am reading this book and have not 'heard' them speaking at all. LOL

I never really thought about the 'motherland' mindset before. It has been very eye opening and truly interesting.


message 42: by M. J. (last edited Aug 11, 2014 12:21PM) (new)

M. J. (goodreadscom007pandas) | 22 comments The British Colonies in the West Indies all referred to England as the Mother country and I guess after the inhabitants viewed the Union Jack being flow, and with photos of the Queen in government buildings, most of the West Indians could only think of England as their mother.

This novel has spurred me to seek further information about the immigrations habits of the inhabitants from the West Indies to their Mother country.

I'm going to use the link posted earlier in the thread.

http://www.exodus2013.co.uk/on-the-bu...


message 43: by A.D. (new)

A.D. Koboah (adkoboah) | 261 comments Hi Londa and Marty

Here is the link to a documentary I saw ages ago about immigration of inhabitants of the West Indies to the Mother country. It's a four part documentary, so I don't know if you guys will have time to watch it, but it's here anyway.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list...


message 44: by M. J. (new)

M. J. (goodreadscom007pandas) | 22 comments A.D. wrote: "Hi Londa and Marty

Here is the link to a documentary I saw ages ago about immigration of inhabitants of the West Indies to the Mother country. It's a four part documentary, so I don't know if you ..."


Hey thanks A.D.!


message 45: by M. J. (new)

M. J. (goodreadscom007pandas) | 22 comments A.D. wrote: "Hi Londa and Marty

Here is the link to a documentary I saw ages ago about immigration of inhabitants of the West Indies to the Mother country. It's a four part documentary, so I don't know if you ..."


I viewed he first 10-min and your recommendation has decided my viewing activity for the evening. Thanks again!


message 46: by Londa (new)

Londa (londalocs) | 1526 comments A.D. wrote: "Hi Londa and Marty

Here is the link to a documentary I saw ages ago about immigration of inhabitants of the West Indies to the Mother country. It's a four part documentary, so I don't know if you ..."


Excellent! Thanks. I am going to add the first one to our homepage and I am certain I will watch most of them.


message 47: by A.D. (new)

A.D. Koboah (adkoboah) | 261 comments You're welcome, guys. I really enjoyed it when it came on TV. Enjoy:-)


message 48: by Lulu, The Book Reader who could. (new)

Lulu (lulureads365) | 2489 comments Mod
Londa wrote: "Hortense is definitely a snob! I am hoping she gets an attitude adjustment, but I'm not counting on it."

DEFINITELY a snob!! lol


message 49: by Lulu, The Book Reader who could. (new)

Lulu (lulureads365) | 2489 comments Mod
Chapters 1-10

Hortense is very much a snob and she is so selfish. How did she become so snobbish, thinking she is better than everyone else around her? Is it because of who her father is (she does realize that she was illegitimate right?)? She was the help for crying out loud!

I don't like how she embarrassed Celia in front of Gilbert, stealing her chance for real love and her dream to live in England. Did Hortense do this simply to get back at Celia?


message 50: by Londa (new)

Londa (londalocs) | 1526 comments Lulu

The relationship she had as her cousin's 'adoptive daughter' was very confusing. Mr. Philip and Miss Ma treated her as just a playmate for Michael. Miss Ma could be especially cruel to her, all that slapping for no reason.

Hortense's disdain for her birthmother was disturbing as well. She had no connection or feeling for her at all. She seemed to care for her grandmother some, but still in an aloof kind of way.

Michael was the only person she ever truly loved at this point.

I don't think she had any reason to get back at Celia. She deserved the wallop Celia gave her.


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