Published: 2004 by Headline Review
Genre: Historical Fiction
Themes: War, Race, Immigration, Marriage
Length: 448 Pages
My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Finally. I have finally read this book. I think I must of bought a copy of this in 2014 with every intention to read it straight away. And did I read it? Nope. It’s sat on my bookshelf since then glaring at me telling me ‘read me, you know you’ll love me’ and finally I listening to it. And I did love it, so much so I read this, a 400+ page book, in less than a day.
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.
Set during and post-World War II ‘Small Island’ primarily follows four characters. First are Hortense and Gilbert, newly weds from Jamaica who emigrate to England after WWII. There we see them experiencing racism and racial ignorance and follow their struggle to find employment.
I loved reading about all four of the vastly different characters, who were all connected in an extroadinary way. With these four characters this book talks about war, race, immigration, marriage and love.
Sometimes when books try and talk from the perspective of multiple people they all just sound the same, but Levy was able to craft a unqiue voice for each of the characters. They each get a good share of time on the page and you get to know each one really well.
Even though this is a 400+ page book I read it in almost a day. I just flew through the story not wanting to let these characters go. While this book is well known I still think it’s vastly under-rated and I highly recommend it!
Would I Read Again? Yes!
Would I Recommend? Yes!