Tuesday, January 3, 2012

'The Long Song' by Andrea Levy

Publisher: Headline Review

ISBN: 978-0-7553-5942-4

Length: 398 Page

What the 'blurb' says:

'You do not know me yet but I am the narrator of this work. My son Thomas, who is printing this book, tells me it is customary at this place in the novel to give the reader a little taste of the 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 followed.

Prehaps, 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 themselves.'

Opening line: 'The book you are holding within your hand was born of a craving.'

What's good about this novel?

On my first attempt at reading this novel, I did find the almost light-hearted nature around the subject of slavery, quite off putting. However having read on, I realised that what Andrea Levy was doing by using this tone of writing, was rather clever. This is because by having light hearted moments within the novel, this created more of an impact, when the novel moved on to graphic and dramatic elements of the story.

I found the majority of the novel to be well paced and intensely written. I also thought that the characters within the story to be realistic and well formed. I believed that the characters existed and were part of the era of slavery and subsequent demise. Aside from the story in the past, I loved the voice that Levy gives to the character July in the present day. I could almost picture her in front of me, talking about her life.

What's wrong with this novel?

Whilst I enjoyed the voice given to July in the past, I found the variation of perspectives within the novel, rather odd. Whilst I knew that July was talking about her life story, the fact that July refers to herself in the third person when she talks of her past, made my reading experience feel disjointed and at times, confusing. Several times during the novel I had to return the start, to affirm who exactly was talking.

Also I found that even though the first half of this novel was compelling (I was unable to put the book down) the second half, was a little disappointing. I still wanted to read on, but I didn't feel that the second half of the book kept my attention as firmly as the beginning of the novel.

Is this worth a read?

Yes I think 'The Long Song' is worth a read. I have read better books set in the times of slavery ('Kindred' by Octavia E.Butler springs to mind), but this is still a well written representation of the events within that era. 'The Long Song' isn't without its flaws, but this book is compelling and in some ways, educational.


  1. Thanks for sharing this review, I liked her previous book. Another book on the subject of slavery that I really enjoyed was 'Island Beneath the Sea' by Isabelle Allende, a gripping narrative and interesting history of the modern day republic of Haiti.

  2. Thank you for sharing this review, The Long Song sounds worth reading.

  3. Your review reminded me that I need to put this book on my to be read list. Thank You.

  4. Hi thanks for the comments and for the recommendation clairemca!