Friday, 30 September 2011

Andrea Levy's The Long Song (interview here) was a return to the tropics for me, where I spent my early child.hood, although on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean from the setting of this story. The descriptions of the heat of the Caribbean, the red earth and the lushness of the vegetation all made me recall memories from long ago. However this book is not primarily about the tropics as such, it is a story of people, and two main characters at that, July and Caroline. July is in fact the narrator of the story, with an introduction and encouragement by her son Thomas and the story opens with differing accounts of her birth. Our Book Club discussed this recently and opinions were very mixed. We all loved the sheer quality of Andre Levy's writing, but for several members of the group, the horrors of slavery and its effects on both slaves and their owners were difficult themes to read about. Having read Andrea Levy's reasons for writing this book here, I found the descriptions of the daily life on the plantation both moving and at times amusing  - the use of a stained bedsheet as tablecloth when entertaining a group of important neighbours, for instance. July's having to give up both her children, for different reasons, was shatteringly sad, but she nevertheless went on to make a life for herself. A wonderful, if at times emotional, read.

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