Small Island Review

Author: Andrea Levy.

Published: 2004.

Rating: 8/10.


This was one of the novels I had to read for my British Lit Post-1945 class. It tells the story of four characters before, during and after World War II. It highlights issues surrounding gender, race, nationality and sexuality

The novel is told from the four characters perspectives and allows in insight into gender and ethnicity. Gilbert and Hortense are Jamaican and come to London in order to better their lives. Gilbert enlists in the RAF to fight for his mother country in the war. His passages show the racial tension between white British citizens and black citizens. Hortense’s passages also show the rigid ideals of British identity and nationality.

Queenie and Bernard are white British citizens. Queenie moved from the countryside to London and her passages comment on the movement of social class. Her character was quite likeable because she is friendly to Gilbert, Hortense and Michael when very few people were showing them any warmth. Her sexual attraction to black men also brings up an interesting dialogue about the birth of multicultural Britain. Bernard’s passages give an insight into the war in India and how perspectives can be changed. 

It is a very ambitious novel and in terms of setting it travels the world. It very much provides every perspective with the four main characters. It’s an important colonial/ postcolonial novel that highlights gender and race amid the backdrop of World War II. The drama and romance were also entertaining. 

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5 comments on “Small Island Review

  1. This has been on my TBR shelf for a while! Have you read The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon? Similar themes and very moving! Bronte

    • It is lengthy but very good if you want multiple perspectives. It also banishes the myth of World War II as being a “white man’s war.” Yes I have read The Lonely Londoners and enjoyed it too. The dialect used in it is very interesting. It’s another important colonial/ post-colonial novel.

  2. Patrisya says:

    I have read this book recently. Truly amazing book! Although author touches very serious topics such as racism, she adds a bit of humor to this book! I would recommend it to everyone interested in the history and immigration to UK.

  3. […] Small Island – Andrea Levy – […]

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