2004 Whitbread Book of the Year
2004 Orange Prize for Fiction
2005 Commonwealth Writers' Prize
Synopses & Reviews
Small Island is an international bestseller. It won the Orange Prize for Fiction, The Orange Prize for Fiction: Best of the Best, The Whitbread Novel Award, The Whitbread Book of the Year Award, and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. It has now been adapted for the screen as a coproduction of the BBC and Masterpiece/WGBH Boston.
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 that most American of experiences: the immigrant's life.
"Small Island is a triumph of poise, organisation and deep, deep character the sort of work that can only be achieved by an experienced novelist, comfortable with her powers and confident in her technique. Ugliness and struggle, humour and forbearance, this is the myriad-voiced sound of a nation in transformation." The Age, Australia
"Affecting, funny, and sad, this is a masterful depiction of a society on the verge of major changes." School Library Journal
"An enthralling tour de force that animates a chapter in the history of empire." Kirkus Reviews
"What [Levy] gives us is nothing less than messy, terrifying, wonderful life itself. Rarely have almost 450 pages spun by so fast." Boston Globe
"Small Island's temporal dynamics and the artfully choreographed connections among the various first-person voices propel the reader forward through differing perspectives and revelations." Washington Post
"Levy has a light touch and brings unexpected humor..." San Diego Union-Tribune
"Levy deftly and generously captures the moment when the arrival of immigrants from far-flung parts of the Empire was shockingly fresh to all involved." Seattle Times
"It's all here: exceptional dialogue, clever narrative, and a rich story..." Minneapolis Star Tribune
It is 1948, and England is recovering from a war. But at 21 Nevern Street, London, the conflict has only just begun. Queenie Bligh's neighbours do not approve when she agrees to take in Jamaican lodgers, but Queenie doesn't know when her husband will return, or if he will come back at all. What else can she do? Gilbert Joseph was one of the several thousand Jamaican men who joined the RAF to fight against Hitler. Returning to England as a civilian he finds himself treated very differently. It's desperation that makes him remember a wartime friendship with Queenie and knock at her door. Gilbert's wife Hortense, too, had longed to leave Jamaica and start a better life in England. But when she joins him she is shocked to find London shabby, decrepit, and far from the golden city of her dreams. Even Gilbert is not the man she thought he was.
About the Author
Andrea Levy was born in England to Jamaican parents. She is the author of Every Light in the House Burnin', which was longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction; Never Far from Nowhere, Fruit of the Lemon and Small Island. Andrea was a judge in the 1996 Saga Prize for Black Fiction, and in the 1997 Orange Prize for Fiction. Her radio appearances, and readings at literary festivals, bookshops and libraries have helped her to build an enthusiastic following. Andrea is the winner of the 2004 Orange Prize for Fiction.