Winner of the Walter Scott Prize, this historical novel is Andrea Levy’s fifth book, following the critically acclaimed ‘Small Island’, with this book being just as strong (if not better).
‘The Long Song’ is set in 19th century Jamaica, and explores the life of July, formerly a Jamaican slave, now free woman, highlighting her daily life, and important events in Jamaica’s history, like the Baptist War.
Until recently, I had actively avoided books on or around slavery (as that is not the only history of black people/Africa) so I was quite ambivalent about reading this, however, this wariness was dispelled a chapter in. Levy could capture the violence and brutality (which was particularly abhorrent in Jamaica), and somehow, weave together a story with humour, bravery, love and more.
The book is written in the form of a memoir, and although fictional, I appreciated reading about this period from the perspective of a black woman, something rare in both fiction and non-fiction accounts.
It is clear Levy didn’t simply write a fanciful novel, and plonk it in Jamaica. It is thoroughly researched, and if you are a serious book nerd like me you’ll read the notes where she explains the writing process, and gives you discussion prompts. I know the book was published in 2010, if you’ve already read it forgive me for being some years late, if you haven’t, read it as soon as, because it is a gem by one of our finest writers!