Small Island introduced Andrea Levy to America and was acclaimed as a triumph (San Francisco Chronicle). It won both the Orange Prize and the Whitbread Book of the Year Award, and has sold over a million copies worldwide. With The Long Song, Levy once again reinvents the historical novel.
Told in the irresistibly willful and intimate voice of Miss July, with some editorial assistance from her son, Thomas, The Long Song is at once defiant, funny, and shocking. The child of a field slave on the Amity sugar plantation, July lives with her mother until Mrs. Caroline Mortimer, a recently transplanted English widow, decides to move her into the great house and rename her Marguerite.
Resourceful and mischievous, July soon becomes indispensable to her mistress. Together they live through the bloody Baptist war, followed by the violent and chaotic end of slavery. Taught to read and write so that she can help her mistress run the business, July remains bound to the plantation despite her freedom. It is the arrival of a young English overseer, Robert Goodwin, that will dramatically change life in the great house for both July and her mistress. Prompted and provoked by her sons persistent questioning, Julys resilience and heartbreak are gradually revealed in this extraordinarily powerful story of slavery, revolution, freedom, and love.
IT WAS FINISHED ALMOST as soon as it began. Kitty felt such little intrusion from the overseer Tam Dewar’s part that she decided to believe him merely jostling her from behind like any rough, grunting, huffing white man would if they were crushed together within a crowd. Except upon this occasion, when he finally released himself from out of her, he thrust a crumpled bolt of yellow and black cloth into Kitty’s hand as a gift. This was more vexing to her than that rude act—for she was left to puzzle upon whether she should be grateful to this white man for this limp offering or not . . .
Reader, my son tells me that this is too indelicate a commencement of any tale. Please pardon me, but your storyteller is a woman possessed of a forthright tongue and little ink. Waxing upon the nature of trees when all know they are green and lush upon this island, or birds which are plainly plentiful and raucous, or taking good words to whine upon the cruelly hot sun, is ...
.... Best of all though is the story itself. As Miss July bears two children of her own, loses them, and navigates the fine lines of mulatto, quadroon and full negro blood, I became immersed in her life. This is the first book I have read in a while that balances misery and loss with a fairly happy ending. The Long Song is recommended as the best sort of historical fiction and a fine pick for reading groups. I can imagine lively discussions over rum punch and fried plantains.
(Reviewed by Judy Krueger).
Full Review (1155 words).
What is Metafiction?
It depends on whom you ask, as the term is somewhat slippery, meaning that various authors and literary critics define it differently. William H. Gass coined the term in 1970 in an essay entitled "Philosophy and the Form of Fiction". Commenting on American fiction of the 1960s, Gass pointed out that a new term was needed for the emerging genre of experimental texts that openly broke with the tradition of literary realism still dominant in post-WW II American literature. Metafiction is thus an elastic concept covering a wide range of fictions.
John Barth (Lost in the Funhouse), Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid's Tale), Kurt Vonnegut (Breakfast of Champions), A. S. Byatt (Possession) and Salman Rushdie (...
If you liked The Long Song, try these:
A powerful tragedy distilled into a jewel of a masterpiece by the Nobel Prizewinning author of Beloved and, almost like a prelude to that story, set two centuries earlier.
In the midst of the American Civil War, a southern plantation owner's wife is arrested by her husband and declared insane for interfering with his slaves. She is sent to an island mental asylum to come to terms with her wrongdoing, but instead finds love and escape with a war-haunted Confederate soldier.
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