Small Island by Andrea LevyHortense 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 farmers 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 immigrants life.
Small Island Summary
Levy adopts a polyphonic narrative mode — one that draws together and contrasts the voices and viewpoints of different characters whose stories unfold in parallel throughout the novel. The novel also complicates conventional Windrush tales, which often have a male bias, by the inclusion of Hortense. Her arrival in the early days of this migratory movement challenges the notion that women were a secondary or belated part of this diaspora. Andrea Levy's father, Winston, was a passenger on the Empire Windrush during its voyage. This is the postcard he purchased whilst on board. Usage terms You may not use the material for commercial purposes. Please credit the copyright holder when using this work.
Small Island is a prize-winning novel by British author Andrea Levy , her fourth novel. I wanted to start in with two women, one white, one black, in a house in Earls Court , but when I asked myself, 'Who are these people and how did they get here? If every writer in Britain were to write about the war years there would still be stories to be told, and none of us would have come close to what really happened. It was such an amazing schism in the middle of a century. And Caribbean people got left out of the telling of that story, so I am attempting to put them back into it. But I am not telling it from only a Jamaican point of view. I want to tell stories from the black and white experience.
The novel opens as Queenie , one of the protagonists, visits the British Empire Exhibition as a young girl. She goes with her parents, who run a butchery together, and is chaperoned by two of their employees, Emily and Graham. Years later, in , Hortense Joseph arrives in England from Jamaica and rings the bell of a tall London house. Hortense relates her childhood in Kingstown. Their household is sterile and unloving; her adoptive parents, Mr. Philip and Miss Ma , are dogmatically religious and scold her frequently. Her only friends are their son, Michael , and her maternal grandmother, Miss Jewel , who works as a servant in the house.
Jul 31, Hortense recalls that her old friend Celia Langley used to daydream about moving to England and living in a house with a doorbell. She wishes Celia could see her now, a married woman pressing the doorbell of a tall English house. Hortense’s reverie and Celia’s fantasy.
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These notes were contributed by members of the GradeSaver community. The book revolves around the lives of four people, Gilbert , a royal force soldier from Jamaica; Hortense , wife of Gilbert; Queenie , a white landlady; and her husband Bernard. Gilbert has been experiencing racism is London and is led to Queenie by a man named Albert. Queenie provides Gilbert a place to stay. The three become fast friends but Albert is fatally shot to death by the police. Gilbert then brings over Hortense to London and Queenie tries to help her settle in. Queenie helps her to get a teaching job at a school but she faces racism when they tell her that her education in Jamaica is not valid in London.
Levy separates the book between past and present times, reflecting and acting, oscillating between the two. Small Island begins, after Queenie reflects on life, with Gilbert and Hortense arguing about the living conditions in London as she arrives. The novel then reverts to the past, giving insight into how they ended up in London. Gilbert joined the Royal Air Force. The three of them became friendly and go to the movies one day. A fight ensued between the police and these three.