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Publisher's Summary

Small Island by best-selling author Andrea Levy won the Orange Prize for Fiction, as well as many other awards, including the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and the Whitbread. Now a major BBC drama starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Naomie Harris, its enduring appeal will captivate fans of Maya Angelou and Zadie Smith.

It is 1948, and England is recovering from a war. But at 21 Nevern Street, London, the conflict has only just begun. Queenie Bligh's neighbours do not approve when she agrees to take in Jamaican lodgers, but Queenie doesn't know when her husband will return, or if he will come back at all. What else can she do?

Gilbert Joseph was one of the several thousand Jamaican men who joined the RAF to fight against Hitler. Returning to England as a civilian he finds himself treated very differently. It's desperation that makes him remember a wartime friendship with Queenie and knock at her door.

Gilbert's wife Hortense, too, had longed to leave Jamaica and start a better life in England. But when she joins him she is shocked to find London shabby, decrepit, and far from the golden city of her dreams. Even Gilbert is not the man she thought he was....

©2004 Andrea Levy (P)2015 Headline Publishing Group Ltd

Critic Reviews

"Wonderful...seamless...a magnificent achievement." (Linda Grant)
'A great read...honest, skilful, thoughtful and important.' ( Guardian)
"A cracking good read...I think what appealed to me most was the passion and anger in the writing all the way through, yet it was always leavened with a particularly wry sort of humour - the sort that, tho' you find yourself smiling, you at the same time realise you almost shouldn't be." (Margaret Forster)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Terrific narration, compelling story

I don't generally write reviews, but this performance merits special notice. Andrea Levy, the author of this compelling story, is a first-rate narrator, presenting her several characters and accents with convincing accuracy. The dialogue is natural and engaging, and her Jamaican characters are voiced with the full musicality of their language. A real listening pleasure!

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  • Lydia
  • Melbourne, Australia
  • 07-20-15

Fabulous Story with Excellent Narration

Where does Small Island rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Close to the top. The story is captivating.

What did you like best about this story?

I enjoyed the fact that the story is narrated by several different characters, each with a unique, and, at times, quite comical, perspective.

What about Andrea Levy’s performance did you like?

Ms. Levy breathed life into each quirky, fascinating character. She performed different accents extremely well.

If you could rename Small Island, what would you call it?

The Clash Echoes.

Any additional comments?

I strongly recommend this nook.

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  • Dolly
  • 10-01-15

A breath taking saga.

I loved this audio book. I had chosen the book for my book group so listened to it after I'd read it.
I got so much more from it by doing this.
I was born in 1940 so was just a baby during the war and this was a real eye opener for me.
If ever Andrea Levy tires of writing she could surely earn a living with her talent for narrating!

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Mr
  • 05-18-16

A lovely easy to follow story

I found this a very enjoyable book to listen to, easy to follow with only a few key characters. The story develops over time in a very elegant way.

The narrator (also the author) was excellent.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-21-18

Best read yet!

From the start you're placed slap bang in the middle of it all and you cannot stop listening!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Amy Louise Sheppard
  • 04-08-18

Loved the audio version

I struggled to read the book due to Dyslexia but liked the story so got the audio book. Brilliant! Really liked that the author is the one reading it.
I really enjoyed how the book was written with different characters narrating different parts.
I'd definately chose another book by the same author in the future.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Nicholas Miller
  • 03-27-18

Brilliant story, great narration

Brilliant story, great narration. Fascinating context and narrative, an insight into lives and attitudes around race and migration in war and post war England

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Antonia
  • 09-04-18

Great Story!<br />

Great Story.. A little slow to get into but when it got to the end of the book I wanted more

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  • Lorna H-B
  • 08-27-18

Excellent!

A very gripping storyline. Excellently read by the author. I would highly recommend. It gave me a insight of what my Jamaican parents would have experienced when they arrived in England. Interested that there are many reference to black people knitting.


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  • 1001 creations
  • 08-23-18

An emotional true journey about challenging times

With true emotions and challenges that all nations experienced during the world war, this book takes us on a journey to a time of hardship. it's characters of Jamaican origin are beautifully described with their passion for life and horrendous challenges they encountered when they settles in England. the shocking racism experienced by the characters still exists to this day... maybe hidden.
Expertly and clearly narrated.

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  • LJ Sinnott
  • 08-07-18

Fabulous listening!!

Absolutely loved this and her range of accents superb! Can't wait to her another story from her

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  • Tilly Barker
  • 08-02-18

Stunning

Having tried to read this book as a child and being put off by the hardships that the characters face I always thought that I should try again as an adult but was worried that I wouldn't like it again. I'm so glad that I did give it another go. This story is heartbreaking, hillarious, moving and monumental. Levy expertly intertwines the lives of 4 very different people against the backdrop of WW2 and the civil rights issues of the 20th century. I love the way that she navigates between each character's perspective, sometimes re-covering the same events but without any sense of dull repetition. This allows you to empathise with each character, whilst being well aware of their flaws as seen by the other characters.
Levy's narration perfectly conveyed the emotional turmoil of the story. At the end this story leaves you reeling, and re-evaluating your emotional understanding of the not so distant past.