Thursday, 21 October 2010
The Long Song
Title: The Long Song
Author: Andrea Levy
Number of pages: 336
Started: 15 October 2010
Finished: 21 October 2010
THE BOOK YOU ARE now holding within your hand was born of a craving. My mama had a story—a story that lay so fat within her breast that she felt impelled, by some force which was mightier than her own will, to relay this tale to me, her son. Her intention was that, once knowing the tale, I would then, at some other date, convey its narrative to my own daughters. And so it would go on. The fable would never be lost and, in its several recitals, might gain a majesty to rival the legends told whilst pointing at the portraits or busts in any fancy great house upon this island of Jamaica.
It was a fine ambition from a noble old woman for whom many of her years were lived in harsh circumstance. This wish demanded respect.
Read a longer extract here
You do not know me yet. My son Thomas, who is publishing this book, tells me, it is customary at this place in a 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.
July is a slave girl who lives upon a sugar plantation named Amity and it is her life that is the subject of this tale. She was there when the Baptist War raged in 1831, and she was also present when slavery was declared no more. My son says I must convey how the story tells also of July’s mama Kitty, of the negroes that worked the plantation land, of Caroline Mortimer the white woman who owned the plantation and many more persons besides - far too many for me to list here. But what befalls them all is carefully chronicled upon these pages for you to peruse.
Perhaps, 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 book they might care to consider. Cha, I tell my son, what fuss-fuss. Come, let them just read it for themselves.
What I thought:
This was the final book on the Booker Prize shortlist, and I have to say that I was relieved to get to the end of reading them all. The Long Song was actually very readable and was a tale of slavery and emancipation (of sorts) and it was an interesting tale.
I did at times find the use of dialect a bit off-putting, but at other times it helped to build the picture so I think it worked in places but grated in others. It was certainly one of the better books on the shortlist and is one of the books I would recommend the most. I probably rushed it a bit to get to the end of the exercise of reading the shortlist, so perhaps did not do it justice, but it was a decent read nonetheless.