Small Island

Hortense Joseph arrives in London from Jamaica in 1948 with her life in her suitcase, her heart broken, her resolve intact. Her husband, Gilbert Joseph, returns from the war expecting to be received as a hero, but finds his status as a black man in Britain to be second class. His white landlady, Queenie, raised as a farmer’s daughter, befriends Gilbert, and later Hortense, with innocence and courage, until the unexpected arrival of her husband, Bernard, who returns from combat with issues of his own to resolve.

Told in these four voices, Small Island (2004) by Andrea Levy ( is a courageous novel of tender emotion and sparkling wit. It speaks of crossings taken and passages lost, of shattering compassion and of reckless optimism in the face of insurmountable barriers – in short, an encapsulation of the immigrant’s life.

Made into a two part BBC television drama in 2009 (

560 pages in Headline Review paperback edition

ISBN 978-0755307500

Andrea Levy

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