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Rea Levy that s what Makes Book Such A this book such a book This was a huge disappointment to me I found the depiction of the black Jamaican slaves positively insulting Their plight and their path toward freedom is a central theme but they need not be presented so degradingly The writing is wordy and convoluted Get to the point I do not want to wade through all these words to get the gist of the storyThe characters they were all very unappealing Not just unappealing downright despicable Whites and blacks alike If you are looking for a smidgen of humor don t look here Here is what bothered me the most Every action and even every sentence reflected a hidden subversive intention Nobody and nothing that happened is presented honestly Every action had a hidden meaning always dishonest and often cruel or mean I say if you hate someone tell them andor give them a punch but do not do something that appears friendly but in fact causes pain I want the meanness and anger upfront not hidden and not disguised I finished the book After many lies and false starts I eventually found out how the people were related and what happened to each but what a long tedious and unpleasant journey it was I have to start by saying Andrea Levy is one of my favourite authors Her writing is always so beautiful and I wasn t surprised to learn that The Long Song wasa Man Booker finalist in 2010 July is a slave born on a sugar cane plantation in Jamaica and it is July who leads us through life as a slave on the plantat I came to The Long Song having thoroughly enjoyed Andrea Levy s Small Island My expectations were high and she did not merely match but exceed them Her secret is in finding the right voice for the story and in the female slave July she found someone to conduct us through the years of slavery and so called freedom for the blacks in Jamaica with just the right amount of irreverence to deny her victim status and an instinctive native wit to counterbalance the misery or rather to give it a very individual perspectiveLevy admits in her own notes on writing the novel to the anticipated difficulty of writing about slavery without it turning into a harrowing tale of violence and misery July arose from that anxiety as the answer to it As a narrator she is unreliable one eyed and sometimes mendacious which is paradoxically why we trust her version of events above the orthodox white historian s view She is not overly interested in the historical det 425 starsFollowing on from Small Island this is another historical novel and this time Levy looks at her Jamaican roots charting the last days of slavery on the island It is narrated by July a former slave and starts about 1831 the time of what was nown as the Baptist revolt and goes to the end of slavery in the late 1830s July is telling her story in old age whilst she is living with her son Thomas The novel is the story of her early life on a plantation called Amity Although narrated by July it is edited by Thomas and there is a periodic interplay between the two which sometimes gives the story a slightly odd feelJuly describes herself as a mulatto her father was white an overseer and raped her mother She was taken from her mother whilst still young to become the pet and then lady s maid to Caroline Mortimer the vapid and foolish sister of the plantation owner A new overseer Robert Goodwin arrives with good intentions and a Christian upbringing He intends to show that following slavery the plantation can be managed on humane lines The charting of his downfall on several levels is fascinating He ends up being just as cruel as his predecessors The story is weaved around actual historical eventsThe telling of any story of slavery is going to be difficult and will contain horrors and this certainly does However the character of July is irrepressible and injects a strong comic element into the novel There is always a uestion here as to whether July is an entirely reliable narrator This and the humour counterpoised with the background of slavery makes for an unusual feel The humour is Pythonesue at times at the same time reviewers have also described it as a Comedy of Manners There is also a touch of UpstairsDownstairs about it as we see the two worlds slaves and masters running parallel The Jamaican setting gives a rather different feel to the American novels about slavery In Jamaica the white population was very small and relative newcomers This led to relationships on the plantations shifting in different ways with both sides having the ability to harm each other This is a good novel with some well drawn characters especially July it doesn t for me have the power of books like Beloved and there are irritations with the structure Nevertheless it is well worth reading for its particular focus on the women in the stor. Antation land of Caroline Mortimer the white woman who owned the plantation and many persons besides far too many for me to list here But what befalls them all is carefully chronicled upon these pages for you to peruse Perhaps my son suggests I might write that it is a thrilling journey through that time in the company of people who lived it All this he wishes me to pen so the reader can decide if this is a novel they might care to consider Cha I tell my son what fuss fuss Come let them just read it for themselv. ,


With a een interest in the writing of Caribbean women and the female perspective of slavery I d been meaning to read Andrea Levy for a long time Given my personal interests her fifth novel The Long Song seemed like a good place to start Yet despite being an engaging well crafted read in the end I was somehow left wanting Our somewhat unreliable narrator Miss July herself a 19th century Jamaican slave now free to tell her story with the editorial assistance of her once estranged son Thomas asks in the closing of her narrative Must I show you the trouble that those free negroes had to endure and my overwhelming response was Yes Don t get me wrong in the earlier parts of the narrative there are scenes of convincing cruelty and brutality and whilst I didn t want Levy to linger on these it is the story of miss these it is the story of Miss s journey to freedom after all I found the story as a whole a little too light hearted and it didn t move me in the way I d hoped On the flipside though I adore the fictional Miss July for her beautifully buoyant voice and unapologetic patois and for telling and writing her long song as her own and not succumbing to readers like me who may have wanted her to tell it slightly differently Levy allows her to write her own herstory and therefore herself into history I really wanted to like Andrea Levy s The Long Song The subject matter is interesting the last years of slavery in Jamaica in the 1820s 30s and Levy s outstanding 2004 novel Small Island was one of my favourite British novels of the 2000s The Long Song I found strangely inept for someone who has written such an accomplished novel as Small Island If I had read it cold without nowing the author s name I might have judged it the work of a promising ish first time novelist with a lot to learn The novel relies heavily on the reader s positive response to its narrator Miss July a young enslaved woman employed as a lady s maid Levy works hard to make July engaging Her full mouth still had that mischievous turn upon its corners where a wry tale or tall tall truth looked about to escape but she didn t work for me and there isn t much else for readers to latch onto in terms of characterization if they don t bond with July The white characters are all pretty much caricatures especially July s airhead employer Caroline Mortimer who occupies a great too much real estate in the novel and the black characters are barely sketched in This seemed a great shame as there was an interesting story to be told here At the centre of the novel is the historical episode of the 1831 Baptist Rebellion when Jamaican slaves rose up and attempted to seize their freedom by force a few years prior to emancipation I read up on this online after finishing The Long Song and it s a fascinating micro slice of history The Long Song stages it as something almost peripheral to the action of the novel and there s no attempt to portray the ideological build up to the rebellion we just see it suddenly happening almost out of nowhere This May Be Realistic Many may be realistic many of important historical events aren t particularly politicized and informed observers but there are still brilliant ways to do the margins of history like Thackeray s treatment of Waterloo most famously Levy really just lets it fall flatThere are also structural problems in the book we get a long passage towards the end on July s son s life in England which is interesting per se but comes far too late in the novel to be properly integrated and the writing is sometimes oddly lumpen especially the dialogue I m ready for them if there s trouble Good chance to put all those niggers back in their place I do hope this half baked novel doesn t stop any readers from trying Small Island It would be a great shame if that were the case Levy s previous novel Small Island is rightly regarded as a masterpiece and with The Long Song she has returned to the level of storytelling that earned her the Orange Prize in 2004 Her heroine narrates the beginning of the end of slavery in Jamaica c The Long Song is a deeply moving story but it s not what is said that is most effective Indeed it s about what isn t said that is the most powerful and intensely thought provoking aspect of the book The story begins with an aged mother July narrating her story to her son He then in turn is writing the book we have before us So everything she says comes through him on the page Although we presume he sticks relatively close to her narrative it is filtered through him He wouldn t change the facts per say though he may present them in a way that he finds most appropriate The two discuss this at length during a few interludes and some aspects of the book is clearly told in the way July wishes them to be But how far the rest of the book is an accurate portrayal of her words is. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize Th e Long Song by multi million copy bestselling author Andrea Levy is a hauntingly beautiful heartbreaking and unputdownable novel which will resonate with everyone who went to see the Oscar winning film 12 Years a Slave and fans of Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees 'A marvel of luminous storytelling' Financial Times You do not now me yet My son Thomas who is publishing this book tells me it is customary at this place in a novel to give the reader a little taste of th.

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Impossible to tell There s three levels of storytelling and sometimes four where July draws on the memories of other characters To call this July draws on the memories of other characters To call this book that tests the limits of unreliable narration would be to invoke an understatement But memory can be self serving and July uses her imagination to fill in the gaps of the story telling She speaks of events she didn t witness as if she was there She is privy to facts she would never have nown So if she can do all this how much of her own story can we actually trust to be accurateIt s hard to say There are many gaps within the narrative July s retelling begins with the story of how she was adopted taken would be a appropriate word into white society She and her mother were slaves and one day a white woman liked the look of July so she thought she d have her as her pet She took her from her mother who had no say in the event and ept her with her as a sort of handmaiden July then developed a complex psychological state She was a black woman acting like a racist white woman once again evocative of the ideas in Black Skins White Masks After a new overseer arrives and a love triangle develops lately followed my massacre and tragedy July then skips forward twenty or so years and we never learn what happened to July through this period of time though we can presume it wasn t very pleasant She doesn t wish to talk about it after all So we have a half story a story of the injustice one woman felt in such a world We see the end of slavery and the real transition the slaves felt afterward Although they had freedom the serfdom did not end overnight Levy delves deep into the historical issues of the time and makes this part of history the history of the Caribbean slave nown Levy plays around with language and traditional narrative expectations to create a story that is exactly what her character wants it to be She chooses what events she is going to tell and it s up to us to ascertain the accuracy of them At times it felt purposely cinematic it felt like this was written for the screen And that s not a bad thing I think this would make an excellent movie because it certainly is a very creative and highly effective historical novel The Long Song is one of those fiction books that provides a clearer picture of a particular historical era then any history book In this case the time is the last years of slavery in Jamaica and the story unfolds from the viewpoint of a child born into slavery who lives through the end of slavery Without wishing to give too much of the story away there is one particular scene which was agonizing The child July and her mother are walking towards the fields when the plantation owner and his sister a woman whose giggle worthy silliness becomes something monsterous with absolute power meet them The newly widowed sister slowly takes a fancy to the little girl and decides at the end of the meeting to take her as her own In the hands of Andrea Levy the writing of this seen is matter of fact but builds to an incredible dread as the curiosity of a child the growing realization of the mother come crashing against a whimsical act of inhumanity by the plantations owners sister who give no thought to the abduction then someone taking a itten The whole thing capped by the plantation owners disppassionate discussion of the work attributes of his slaves For me that one scene brought to life the history of slavery in a way that makes you wiser in a way a hundred recitation of the facts would be unable to do In the ability to take history and make it relatable by showing the effects on everyday humans it reminded me of A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry There are some warts in the book especially the interplay between narrator and her son which grate but all in all a especially the interplay between narrator and her son which grate but all in all a read This is so deep so sad so harrowing despite its playful undertone The book s strength doesn t rest solely on the narrator s skill she wavers between reliable and unreliable narrator but on the diversity of the characters written about Amity the sugarcane farm upon which this dark tale is based seems a simple run of the mill ind of set up and it s owners and slaves seem simple enough folk but their story carries a lot of depth especially right around the time when slavery is abolished and the slaves become free men and women The story focuses on a slave girl named July or Miss July or Marguerite who happens to be the book s narrator and how she came to be born snatched from her mother and granted as a handmaid to Caroline the sister to the Massa of the farm Her story is both comic and tragic full of love hate betrayal and loss of faith What s surprising about it all is how everything that happens to her just seems to always catch you off guard and never leaves you bored such is the great writing prowess of And. E story that is held within these pages As your storyteller I am to convey that this tale is set in Jamaica during the last turbulent years of slavery and the early years of freedom that followedJuly is a slave girl who lives upon a sugar plantation named Amity and it is her life that is the subject of this tale She was there when the Baptist War raged in 1831 and she was present when slavery was declared no My son says I must convey how the story tells also of July's mama Kitty of the negroes that worked the pl. .
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