Watching Small Island

I blogged last week about watching the first part of the PBS Masterpiece adaptation of Andrea Levy’s Small Island. I watched the conclusion online and now want to read the novel. I thought the actors did a wonderful job portraying characters who have all had their lives drastically changed by war, by racial prejudice, but particularly by interacting with each other. Hortense and Gilbert, both from Jamaica but newly immigrated, were raised to believe that England, “The Mother Country”, is full of opportunity and good people. It is all Hortense can dream of-becoming a teacher, walking through the gardens… What they find shocks them. Their room has rats, it is cold and dark, Hortense cannot find a position as a teacher and Gilbert is constantly demeaned. But still they have this quiet resolve. And then there’s Queenie who awaits her husband’s return from the war. She is adamant about renting rooms to Hortense and Gilbert even at the stares of her neighbors. What’s more, after he ignites a passion within herself, Queenie has an affair with Michael. After a long absence her husband returns-both have questions to answer about themselves, their spouse, and their beliefs.

What I found most poignant in the film was a scene where Michael reflects on the reasons why he will leave England. He says something to the effect of England being just another small island full of people with small minds. It’s interesting now to think of my assumptions about what I would see in the film. I assumed the small island was Jamaica, but it is also a story about England. I suppose they both function as small islands and serve as a way to fuel the progress of the characters.

Levy has published a few other books which I am now pining to read. My library has both Small Island and Fruit of The Lemon . Her newest work, The Long Song was just published this week and looks awfully good.

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