Review: Small Island

Andrea Levy (2004)
438 pages

Book club did it again, introducing me to a wonderful book I probably wouldn’t have read on my own.  Set in the years before, during and after WWII, the story is told from four different points of view: two immigrants from Jamaica, their London landlady, and her soldier husband.

Levy does a great job of weaving the story back and forth in time and between the four main characters, each one well drawn, with a strong voice. To her great credit, she’s brave enough to make the characters unlikable to a certain degree. True to human nature, characters do and say things that would have lost the audience’s sympathy in the hands of a less skillful writer.

Small Island is about racism, patriotism, class, jealousy, life during wartime, and life in the aftermath. It has terrific dialog, a vivid sense of place, and one of the most evocative portraits of living in England during WWII that I have ever read. [*****]

Book club note: Small Island made for an interesting multifaceted discussion. Highly recommended.

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