Andrea Levy's novel Small Island has been dramatized for Masterpiece Theater? It will be on, check your local listings, in April. How great is that? Did you further know that not only did Small Island win the Orange Prize but it was also the book voted the best book to ever win the Orange Prize. The old Double Whammy.
Levy's new book is Long Song. It's out already out in the UK--where my copy came from via friend Simon--and it's due out here in April. I am predicting that it will outsell Small Island and why shouldn't it? It's an even better book. This is Levy's fourth novel and with each one her writing gets more powerful and more assured. Her imagery is stronger and her plots tighter.
Levy is traveling on well worn ground with a slavery story. There are gargantuan shoes to fill or at least get measured up against. There is Beloved, Roots, Gone With The Wind, Jubilee and Sacred Hunger to name just a few. More often novels about slavery are salacious, exploitative cheese fests. Long Song has the commanding literary power of the best slavery fiction but it also has Levy's humor. She is able (especially in July's scenes with her son the "editor" of this book) to give her characters a sense of humor without trivializing their experiences or minimizing the relationships between slave and master. In fact the moments of life affirming levity underscore the sufferings of the slaves.
Long Song could not be more impressive. The daily life, the blight of slavery, the caprice and cruelty of the slave owners, the tiny seconds of happiness, the Baptist War and the incredibly solid characterizations-- everything is pitch perfect. Andrea Levy will be short listed for everything this year and have the grattitude of any reader who steps into her remarkable novel.
And! Don't forget that Small Island is available now and Long Song will be available in April and you can get both at your local and serving the community independent bookstore.