The Long Song by Andrea Levy

“This tale is of my making. This story is told for my amusement. What befalls July is for me to devise.”

I bought this book for my mom but couldn’t resist reading it first. I am familiar with Andrea Levy because I watched the PBS adaptation of Small Island, which I enjoyed. Even though it has been a few months since I read it, The Long Song still sticks out as a wonderful story.

July is a former slave who is recounting the story of her life. We learn immediately her son, a printer, is encouraging her to write down the events of her life. July is not interested in reliving the horrors of the past. She would rather improve her story as a way to escape the pain. What follows throughout the story are her recollections and interruptions from her son when he believes the story has been exaggerated. The storytelling is lush and warm as if you were sitting with July and she is telling the story only to you. She even addresses the reader which in many stories can cause the tale to feel fragmented, but not here. It leaves me to wonder what it means to own your personal story and what are the real reasons we tell stories. Are they recounted for the storyteller or the listener?

Andrea Levey’s website and NPR both offer discussion and excerpts. The Long Song was nominated for the Orange Prize.


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