it focuses on the diaspora of Jamaican immigrants, who, escaping economic hardship on their own "small island," move to England, the Mother Country, for which the men have fought during World War II. Their reception is not the warm embrace that they have hoped for, nor are the opportunities for success as plentiful as they have dreamed.
Alternating among four points of view, Levy involves the reader in their interconnected stories, which she tells with an honesty and vibrancy that make the tragicomedy of their lives both realistic and emotionally involving. Queenie Bligh, a white woman with a mentally ill father-in-law, takes in boarders to make ends meet when her husband Bernard does not return from India. Most of her boarders are black immigrants from the Caribbean, desperate men and women who are willing to pay high prices for small rooms, and Queenie gradually befriends them on a personal level. Gilbert Joseph, a Jamaican who participated in the Battle of Britain, is one of Queenie's tenants, giving up his dream of studying law and working instead as a truck driver, the only job available to him. Six months later, his "golden-skinned" bride Hortense arrives at Gilbert's small room with her heavy trunk, ready to show London her superior "British" manners and hoping to work as a teacher. When, Queenie's husband Bernard unexpectedly moves back home, life at Nevern Street changes forever.
These four major characters, through their often touching first-person stories, convey their hopes and dreams for the future, revealing, as their stories intersect, their personalities, family backgrounds, experiences in love, commitments to the Mother Country, their economic predicaments, and, not incidentally, their prejudices. Queenie, as a woman trying to support herself and her dependent father-in-law, reveals the predicament of many other British women in the post-war years, her pluck, resourcefulness, and practicality matched only by her generosity. Gilbert,... [continues]
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(2011, 01). Small Island Review. StudyMode.com. Retrieved 01, 2011, from http://www.studymode.com/essays/Small-Island-Review-550998.html
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