Author: Andrea Levy
Plot: The Long Song takes place on the island of Jamaica in the 1800s, primarily on a plantation called Amity where our main character, July, is a slave. Although July is born of a field slave, as a child she is brought into the big house by Caroline Mortimer, the sister of the plantation's owner. Caroline is a widow, nearly arrived from England, who renames July "Marguerite" and tries to teach her to be the perfect lady's maid. July and Caroline live through dangerous times in Jamaica, through slave rebellions, the Baptist war, and the turmoil and confusion surrounding emancipation. The book is written by July at the urging of her son, Thomas, who has grown up free and educated, allowing him to become an extremely successful printer on the island. Thomas believes that his mother's story is worth preserving for the future, and July frequently cites his editorial comments as she writes. While this could have had the impact of breaking up the flow of the story, instead it just encourages the reader to want more.
Quote: "My beloved son Thomas did caution, when first I set out to flow this tale upon the world, that although they may not be felt like a fist or a whip, words have a power that can nevertheless cower even the largest man to gibbering tears."
Review: Andrea Levy won me over with her book Small Island years ago. With this new novel, I was just as impressed, if not more so. It has the same attention to characters and historical details as Levy's previous work, but is even more fast paced. The narration is entertaining and the plot has twists and turns. I couldn't put it down once I started reading.