BKMT READING GUIDES



 
Dramatic,
Beautiful,
Epic

4 reviews

Small Island: A Novel
by Andrea Levy

Published: 2005-04-01
Paperback : 441 pages
1 member reading this now
14 clubs reading this now
1 member has read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 3 of 4 members
Winner of the 2004 Orange Prize for Fiction
A Picador Original Trade Paperback

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, ...
No other editions available.
Add to Club Selections
Add to Possible Club Selections
Add to My Personal Queue
Jump to

Introduction

(

Winner of the 2004 Orange Prize for Fiction
A Picador Original Trade Paperback

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.


Andrea Levy's award-winning novel, Small Island, deftly brings two bleak families into crisp focus. First a Jamaican family, including the well-intentioned Gilbert, who can never manage to say or do exactly the right thing; Romeo Michael, who leaves a wake of women in his path; and finally, Hortense, whose primness belies her huge ambition to become English in every way possible. The other unhappy family is English, starting with Queenie, who escapes the drudgery of being a butcher's daughter only to marry a dull banker. As the chapters reverse chronology and the two groups collide and finally mesh, the book unfolds through time like a photo album, and Levy captures the struggle between class, race, and sex with a humor and tenderness that is both authentic and bracing. The book is cinematic in the best way--lighting up London's bombed-out houses and wartime existence with clarity and verve while never losing her character's voice or story. --Meg Halverson

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.

Excerpt

No Excerpt Currently Available

Discussion Questions

Suggested by Members

Why does it take Hortense so long to recognize Gilbert's worth?
What do you think will happend to Queenie & Bernard?
by FTessa (see profile) 05/08/12

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
  "So wonderful"by kiwiob (see profile) 11/29/15

I loved this book. The characters, the humour, the writing - it flowed so beautifully. Such a joy to read. Great story.

 
  "Inevitable, yet unexpected, ending"by FTessa (see profile) 05/08/12

Set against the backdrop of World War 2 and its immediate aftermath, this is a story with universal appeal. Two couples – the Jamaicans Hortense and Gilbert Joseph and the British Queenie... (read more)

 
  "Small Island -- Interesting take on racism in post WWII England"by dragonmary (see profile) 02/28/11

I wanted to read this because the BBC version on Masterpiece (PBS) was wonderful. Book was more tedious w/seemingly endless histories of 4 main characters. Still, worth reading either before or after watching... (read more)

 
  "Orange Prize 2004; Whitbread Book of the Year 2004; Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2005"by 1morechapter (see profile) 02/14/11

Andrea Levy wrote Small Island as a way to research her Jamaican parents’ immigrant experience. The title, Small Island, is apt as it refers to both Jamaica and Britain. The book takes pla... (read more)

Rate this book
MEMBER LOGIN
Remember me
BECOME A MEMBER it's free

Join the leading website for book clubs with over 35,000 clubs and 20,000 reading guides.

SEARCH OUR READING GUIDES Search
Search


FEATURED EVENTS
PAST AUTHOR CHATS
JOIN OUR MAILING LIST

Get free weekly updates on top club picks, book giveaways, author events and more
Please wait...