Saturday, 5 February 2011
The Long Song by Andrea Levy
I haven't read Andrea Levy's other book 'Small Island' which a lot of other bloggers have compared The Long Song to, so my thoughts on this novel are on this novel alone.
There are a lot of historical novels out there which feature slaves or slave owners as main characters and I've read a fair few myself. The Long Song instantly appealed to me for two reasons, firstly the novel is set in Jamaica, not America, and the slave owners in The Long Song are English. I honestly know far more about the Americas role in slavery than the English's despite being born in Bristol (a major slave port during the eighteenth century) so this novel contained a period of history I know relatively little about.
The novel is spoken in Jamaican English which helps to set the scene and is told by July as an old woman. July was born into slavery and was taken from her mother at a young age to work in her masters house. The novel follows her story as she comes into womanhood and it chronicles the drastic changes her life brings.
July, like many of her fellow slaves, is a survivor and The Long Song is not a tale of pure misery. Slavery is a tough subject to read and I am sure it goes without saying that the salves life's depicted in the novel is a cruel and brutal one yet among the tragic there is also humour and strength which shines through. Halfway through the novel the British outlaw Slavery which gives the story and the subject a new angle as the slaves and their masters struggles to adjust to becoming employees and employers.
One minor complaint is the narration which seems to divide reviewers. The older July is narrating the novel and aside from the fact that she seems to narrates sometimes on subjects she cannot possibly know, she also keeps interrupting the story to mostly argue with her son who is making her tell her story. By doing this the reader is made aware of July's strong personality still shining in old age despite all her hardships so I can understand completely why the novel was written in this way. But I did find it interrupted the flow of the story and I found it annoying.
Overall though its a fine book and one which I found enjoyable and surprisingly easy to read.
Posted by Jess