Absorbing

  • Book: The Long Song
  • Location: Jamaica
  • Author: Andrea Levy

Location

Content

It says on the back of my copy that the Financial Times included these words about this novel -” beautifully written, intricately plotted, humorous and earthy…” I couldn’t put it better myself! Except, perhaps, to say that there is not only humour – there are some harrowing episodes and there is real grief too, as anyone would expect from a story about slaves on a sugar plantation in the 1800s. The ‘voice’ that speaks to us through this novel comes from the main protagonist – July – a slave, who is taken from her loving mother at the whim of a white plantation owner for his feeble and whining sister. July has a terrible life generally, punctuated occasionally by episodes that demonstrate her wonderful joie de vivre and a determination to remain strong in the face of huge oppression and undoubtedly, with a less able author this would be a difficult read. Andrea Levy manages to educate us all in the reality of life for West Indian slaves – she conjures up the look of the canes, the dust of the dirt tracks, the heat of the fly-ridden days and the sounds and smells of the steamy, secret nights.She describes bluntly the punishments and cruelty doled out by arrogant managers and land owners and because we hear these things from the mouth of the now-elderly slave herself, we absorb them in a way that is lasting and affecting. An excellent read – but be prepared to somehow feel a measure of guilt!

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