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First UK edition
|Awards|| Orange Prize for Fiction |
Whitbread Book of the Year
Commonwealth Writers' Prize
|Preceded by||Fruit of the Lemon|
|Followed by||The Long Song|
Small Island is a 2004 prize-winning novel by British author Andrea Levy, her fourth novel.
The novel is based on four main characters—Hortense, Queenie, Gilbert and Bernard—and the story is told from each of their points of view. Mainly set in 1948, the plot focuses on the diaspora of Jamaican immigrants, who, escaping economic hardship on their own "small island", move to England, the Mother Country, for which the men have fought during World War II. While the novel focuses on the narratives of Gilbert and Hortense as they adjust to life in England, after a reception that is not quite the warm embrace that they had hoped for, the interracial relationship between Queenie and Michael is central to the plot and the connections that are established between all of the characters. As the story is narrated from various viewpoints, it is achronological, skipping around to discuss each character's life before the outbreak of WWII.
The novel has won a number of prizes including:
It was published by Headline Review to critical success.On 5 November 2019 BBC News included Small Island on its list of the 100 most influential novels. It was described in The Guardian by Mike Phillips as Levy's "big book".
Levy said in 2004: "When I started Small Island I didn’t intend to write about the war. I wanted to start in 1948 with two women, one white, one black, in a house in Earls Court, but when I asked myself, 'Who are these people and how did they get here?' I realised that 1948 was so very close to the war that nothing made sense without it. If every writer in Britain were to write about the war years there would still be stories to be told, and none of us would have come close to what really happened. It was such an amazing schism in the middle of a century. And Caribbean people got left out of the telling of that story, so I am attempting to put them back into it. But I am not telling it from only a Jamaican point of view. I want to tell stories from the black and white experience. It is a shared history."
In 2009, The Guardian selected Small Island as one of the defining books of the decade.It won three awards: the Whitbread Book of the Year, the Orange Prize, and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize.
The novel was adapted for television in two parts by the BBC in 2009.A stage adaptation by Helen Edmundson opened at the National Theatre in April 2019 and the production was discussed with members of the cast on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour in May 2019.
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The reveal kickstarts the BBC's year-long celebration of literature.