Andrea Levy's Small Island

Last week I finished Andrea Levy's Small Island, a compulsive read, sometimes bleak, more often funny, it illuminates, mostly in a kind watery grey light, a pivot point when the British Empire comes 'home' to roost. The central characters Hortense, Gilbert, Queenie, and a mostly off-stage Bernard have a nearly Shakespearean feel to them, their own soliloquies, their inner chatter areall  great revealers of  plot and character. Gilbert at times might be the grave digger in Hamlet, an irascible and noble clown, Hortense a kind of unrelenting Jamaican version of Elizabeth Bennett, not in her circumstance but in her high handedness, while Queenie is an enigma, an English rose who becomes too literally a metaphor for the Mother Land. Levy's ear for the vernacular is wonderful, the sense of place vividly cinematic.
The Prussian blue redo of a photo of Andrea Levy doesn't do her justice, which is a pity, as the perversity of what goes by as 'justice''  is a central themes in Small Island.
Coda: I stayed up far too late and watched the BBC version on DVD, really well done, but read the book first!

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