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Small Island

Narrated by: Andrea Levy
Length: 17 hrs and 24 mins
5 out of 5 stars (12 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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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.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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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!

7 of 7 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.

5 of 5 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!

2 of 2 people found this review 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 of 2 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

2 of 2 people found this review 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 of 1 people found this review 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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Gayle C.
  • 07-19-19

Brought into glorious technicolour

Listening to Andrea Levy read her own words, moved me beyond my own imagination. This was my first Audible book and now I’m hooked.

I believe this book ( plus many more) should be on school reading lists . To hear the pride in the voices of the Jamaicans taking of their colonial ‘Mother’ land and how they wanted to help fellow British with their fight to win the war, then to hear the way we treated them made me wince. We should have been taught in schools to have respect and admiration for anyone that came to the UK to help rebuild the country after the war too.

Their knowledge of the UK was far superior than any taught in our schools growing up, why weren’t we taught to know about the Colonies of the British Empire and learn to respect them?

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  • Debster K
  • 07-06-19

What an intriguing read!

I was recommended to read this book by someone I met while having a dinner with a group of my husband's friends. she recommended this book to me and sounded as though she had really enjoyed it. it wasn't a book she would have chosen normally but she is in a book group and they decided to read it. I would never have picked this book up but it was an excellent listen. The points of view of all the characters were portrayed brilliantly and the accents were first class. it is unbelievable the views that people had not so long ago!

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-05-19

Love this book!

Stunning audio including the author narrating which is a real treat. A beautiful novel, with illuminating perspectives and a real triumph of narrative. Love it!

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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.