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Andrea Levy biography

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Andrea Levy
Photo: Angus Muir

Andrea Levy

How to pronounce Andrea Levy: lee-vee

Andrea Levy Biography

Andrea Levy was a child of the Windrush. She is the daughter of one of the pioneers who sailed from Jamaica to England on the Empire Windrush ship. Her father and later her mother came to Britain in 1948 in search of a better life. For the British born Levy this meant that she grew up black in a very white England. This experience gave her an unusual perspective on the country of her birth – neither feeling totally part of the society nor a total outsider.

In her novel Small Island she put this perspective to work. She examined the experiences of those of her father’s generation who returned to Britain after being in the RAF during the Second World War. But more than just the story of the Jamaicans who came looking for a new life in the Mother Country, she used her understanding of the white society to show the adjustments and problems faced by the English people whom those Jamaicans came to live amongst. Immigration changes everyone’s lives and in Small Island Levy examined not only the conflicts of two cultures thrown together after a terrible war, but also the kindness and strength people can show to each other. The Second World War was a great catalyst that led to the multi-cultural society Britain has become. For Andrea Levy acknowledging the role played by all sides in this change is an important part of understanding the process.

Andrea Levy did not begin writing until she was in her mid-thirties. At that time there was little written about the black British experience in Britain. After attending writing workshops Levy began to write the novels that she, as a young woman, had always wanted to read. In her first three novels she explored – from different perspectives – the problems faced by black British born children of Jamaican emigrants. In her first novel, the semi-autobiographical Every Light in the House Burnin’ (1994), the story is of a Jamaican family living in London in the 1960s. Never Far from Nowhere (1996), her second, is set during the 1970s and tells the story of two very different sisters living on a London council estate. In Fruit of the Lemon (1999), Faith Jackson, a young black woman, visits Jamaica after suffering a nervous breakdown and discovers a previously unknown personal history. In Small Island (2004), Hortense Joseph arrives in London from Jamaica in 1948 with her life in her suitcase, her heart broken and her resolve intact. The Long Song (2010), set in 19th century Jamaica, is told in the irresistibly willful and intimate voice of Miss July, a slave, with some editorial assistance from her son, Thomas.

Andrea Levy was a Londoner. She not only lived and worked in the city she loved but she used London as the setting for her first four novels. She was a recipient of an Arts Council Award and her second novel Never Far from Nowhere was long listed for the Orange Prize. Besides novels she also wrote short stories that have been read on radio, published in newspapers and anthologised. She was a judge for the Orange Prize for Fiction, Orange Futures and the Saga Prize.

Small Island won the Orange Prize for Fiction, the Whitbread Novel Award and the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize.

She died in February 2019, aged 62, after living with metastatic breast cancer for 15 years; her ashes are buried on the eastern side of Highgate Cemetery.

Andrea Levy's website

This bio was last updated on 11/27/2022. In a perfect world, we would like to keep all of BookBrowse's biographies up to date, but with many thousands of lives to keep track of it's simply impossible to do. So, if the date of this bio is not recent, you may wish to do an internet search for a more current source, such as the author's website or social media presence. If you are the author or publisher and would like us to update this biography, send the complete text and we will replace the old with the new.

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Interview

Andrea Levy discusses her novel The Long Song, set in the mid 19th century, during and after the abolition of slavery.



6 minute video

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Books by this Author

Books by Andrea Levy at BookBrowse
The Long Song jacket Fruit of the Lemon jacket Small Island jacket
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Read-Alikes

All the books below are recommended as read-alikes for Andrea Levy but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
How we choose read-alikes

  • Monica Ali

    Monica Ali

    Monica Ali is the daughter of English and Bangladeshi parents.

    She came to England at the age of three, and her first home was Bolton in Greater Manchester. Ali later studied at Oxford University.

    Her first novel, Brick ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Small Island

    Try:
    Brick Lane
    by Monica Ali

  • Jesse Ball

    Jesse Ball

    Jesse Ball was born in New York in 1978. The author of fourteen books, most recently, the novel How To Set a Fire and Why. His works have been published to acclaim in many parts of the world and translated into more than a ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    The Long Song

    Try:
    How to Set a Fire and Why
    by Jesse Ball

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