Small Island

Small Island

by Andrea Levy

Gail Reid (11/07/11): The "small island" of the title is Jamaica. Gilbert Joseph returns to England from Jamaica after World War II, having fought for the mother country during the war. Gilbert cannot understand why he is not treated as a hero and is subject to constant racial prejudice. His wife Hortense, well educated in Jamaica and with impeccable manners, is also treated as a second class citizen. Queenie Bligh is the exceptional white woman, who befriends Gilbert during the war and after when he returns. To make ends meet, Queenie rents rooms to islanders because her husband Bernard went to fight the war in India and has been missing for 5 years. When Bernard finally returns, he does not share Queenie's tolerance and acceptance of the tenants.

These four characters each narrate chapters in the book, imbuing the overall reading experience with variety and changing perspective. The war is a horrible time for everyone and the author does a terrific job of conveying the bleakness of the post war years. The characters are richly drawn and there is always humor in their observations. Dialog among the Jamaicans, with their unique dialect, adds to the authenticity.

I really enjoyed reading this book and felt it would make a perfect Masterpiece Theater series. Now that I have found out that it already was on television, I am in search of the DVD!
Rating: ****

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