Small Island

Narrated by: Andrea Levy
Length: 17 hrs and 24 mins
Categories: Fiction, Literary
4.5 out of 5 stars (19 ratings)

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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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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A great start to the New Year

Listening to Andrea Levy read her book is glorious and a wonderful start to the New Year. This is going to be a great year of reading and listening. #RIPAndrea

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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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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!

8 people found this 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.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Cabaspre
  • 11-13-19

Most amazing book I have ever read

I am so happy that my daughter recommended this book to me. As most people I am wary of authors narrating their own books but Andrea Levy was absolutely perfect. Varying Jamaican accents, wonderful northern accents, Indian accents - both male and female. I challenge any actress to have achieved this for 17 hours. The story was a huge mix of wonderful humour, terrible sadness and mind-altering knowledge. We all know of colour and racial prejudice but unless we have experienced it for ourselves could never understand the truly dreadful hurt it must cause. I wish this book could somehow have gone back in time to have been used as education. A fabulous achievement and this book deserved every single award that it received.

2 people found this helpful

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  • s
  • 12-09-18

Interesting

Although this is fiction it held the truth about the attitudes and experience of people who came to help the mother country. It also highlighted the racist attitudes of a few British people after the war had ended. Men who were once good enough to fight for England were no longer welcome in peace time. It also makes you think about what is happening today with the Windrush generation who came to England as British and after a life time of service are told to leave.

2 people found this 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!

2 people found this helpful

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  • AmyH
  • 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.

2 people found this 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

2 people found this helpful

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  • Ms. F. Ford
  • 12-20-19

UK life for The Windrush Generation

Almost impossible to put down. So wonderful to hear all the characters in the author's own voice; and the richly-drawn world of post-war Britain contained in these chapters is amazing. Why is this book not taught in every school as part of the WW2 syllabus? The complex web of race relations, Nationalism, Colonialism and the end of Empire in 1950s Britain are navigated through human names, faces, frailties and complexity in this stunning, compassionate work. Love stories, war stories and the story of British history intertwine effortlesy, the threads passing through the hands of the different people in this book as the whole is woven together. So good and so rich. I learnt so much from this book.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-24-19

Fabulous

Possibly the best book I have ever read. Certainly in the top three! Thought provoking.

1 person found this helpful

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  • N. Amin
  • 03-19-20

Pure delight

Pure delight, and with the author herself reading it, it felt like a privilege to hear her perform her own work, and all the characters - their accents and personalities. Eye-opening as well, as it covers the period before and after Windrush, and the dreams and disillusionment of Jamaicans arriving in England, which they had been taught to call “the Motherland” and to fight and die for. It’s the one book I’m sure is so much better enjoyed as an audiobook, so treat yourself to it if you can. 5-stars plus!!

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  • Alison R. Cave
  • 06-11-19

A luminous book

This is definitely a book that is enhanced by listening to it being read by the author, not only because her voice and various accents brings it to life but also her sympathy and love for the characters she has created comes through in the finely nuanced narrative. I loved the characters, except for Bernard whose blatant racism and rudeness can still be seen in some Britons. Hortense, with her stiff pride, I will remember most when I think back on this book. I only wish I were in London now to see the play that is based on this book. And what a tragedy it is that Andrea Levy is not with us anymore to keep writing such wonderful literature.