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Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Booker Dozen 2010: The Long Song by Andrea Levy
The basics: The novel opens with a forward from the narrator's son. The Long Song is the story of July, who was born to a slave on a Jamaican sugar plantation in the early 1800's. As a child, she's taken into the main house to become a house servant.
My thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. July is a delightful narrator. She interjects to address the reader directly at times, but instead of detracting from the narrative, these direct interactions enhance it. July brings a lightness and humor to her story that cheered me on as a reader. Despite living through the horror of slavery and the Jamaican slave rebellion of 1832, the reader always knows July gets to a place and time to write the story we're reading. Despite the somewhat depressing setting, Levy does a wonderful job infusing life and likability into even the unlikable characters. There is nothing simple about her characterizations of people, even the slaveholders whose thoughts and actions seem unconscionable to my modern sensibilities. In fact, my favorite character was Catherine, who plucked July from her mother and brought her to live in the house and serve her.
The verdict: Recommended for almost everyone, but especially fans of multicultural fiction, historical fiction and literary fiction. It's both incredibly literary and incredibly accessible as a story, which is an all too rare combination. I'm eager to read Levy's other novels too.
Booker thoughts: The Long Song is the fourth (of thirteen) Booker longlist novels I've read. While it's my second favorite (after Room, of course), I'm not sure if it will make the shortlist. I think it's certainly shortlist-worthy, but I have an odd feeling it will be left off this shortlist as it was the Orange shortlist.
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Length: 320 pages
Publication date: April 27, 2010
Source: my local public library
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Bibliophile by the Sea called it "a bittersweet novel with characters I eventually came to care about."
Farm Lane Books thought it was "a light entertaining read."
Savidge Reads says it's "a truly wonderful book that haunts you in both its humour and its horrors."
Have you read other Andrea Levy novels? Which one(s) should I read next?