Excerpt from Small Island by Andrea Levy, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Small Island

by Andrea Levy

Small Island by Andrea Levy X
Small Island by Andrea Levy
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Oct 2004, 624 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2005, 448 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


Hortense's hat had slipped forlorn on her head, just a little, but enough to show this haughty Jamaican woman looking comical. I straightened it for her. She composed herself, dabbing her eye with the tip of her white-fingered glove. I got out my handkerchief so she might wipe her face. However, this item was not as clean as it might have been. For several days I had been meaning to wash it but . . . Hortense held it high between her finger and thumb to pass it back to me. As she took out her own handkerchief from her bag, I saw the pretty white cloth had Sunday embroidered on it. 'You have the wrong day there,' I told her. Then, oh, boy, she blew her nose into that poor cloth with the force of a hurricane, before telling me quietly, 'I walk into a cupboard.'

'Why you do that?' I asked her.

'I thought it was the door to leave by.'

'Oh dear,' I said.

'But it was a cupboard and the women all laugh on me.'

My mind conjured the scene but instead of laughing hearty on the joke of this proud woman's humiliation, my heart snapped in two. 'And tell me,' I said, 'what was this cupboard like?'

Her expression flashed 'What is this fool man saying?' but she answered, 'There was a bucket and perhaps a mop.'

'Ah. Now, that was a broom cupboard. I have walked into many broom cupboards.' Reddened and moistened with tears, her eyes gazed upon me. And I believe this was the first time they looked on me without scorn. Two breaths I skipped before I could carry on. 'It true! I walk into broom cupboard, stationery cupboard . . .'

'This one had paper in also.'

'Interesting cupboard,' I told her. 'You say it have broom and paper.' And then it happen.

She smiled.

I felt sure Hortense had teeth that sharpened to a point like a row of nails. But they did not. They were small, dainty-white with a little gap in the front two. Come, could it be true that I had never before seen her smile? I thought carefully of what I should say next -- for I feared a rogue word might chase away that astonishing vision. 'How long you say you stay in this cupboard?' I asked. And, oh, boy, that smile take on a voice -- she giggle.

'Enough time for me to know that I am not dead but I am merely in a cupboard.'

'Long time, then.'

She laughed and I swear the sky, louring above our heads, opened on a sharp beam of sunlight. 'Enough time for them to think me a fool.'

'Ah, well, that is not so long, then.' Man, I had gone too far. No sooner were those rascal words said than I wanted to scoop them back up and stuff them in me big mouth. Like an apparition all trace of mirth vanished.

'Are you teasing me, Gilbert Joseph?' she said. I was ready to throw myself to the ground and have her walk across me. But the cloud passed. Playful, she hit my arm.

'What you do when you come from the cupboard?' I carefully carried on. 'I left the room.'

'You say anything to the women who were laughing on you?'

'What was there to say?'

'You must tell them that was an interesting cupboard.'

From Small Island by Andrea Levy. Copyright Andrea Levy 2004. Reproduced with the permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: I Found My Tribe
    I Found My Tribe
    by Ruth Fitzmaurice
    Ruth O'Neill was only 28 when she married film director Simon Fitzmaurice in 2004. Changing her...
  • Book Jacket: The Art of the Wasted Day
    The Art of the Wasted Day
    by Patricia Hampl
    Patricia Hampl wants you to know that daydreaming is not a waste of a day. Nor is spending time ...
  • Book Jacket: Circe
    Circe
    by Madeline Miller
    Towards the end of Madeline Miller's novel Circe, the titular nymph is questioned by her son ...
  • Book Jacket: All the Names They Used for God
    All the Names They Used for God
    by Anjali Sachdeva
    Pre-publication press has already compared Anjali Sachdeva to Kelly Link and other genre-blending ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner

A love story for things lost and restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of forgiveness.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Other People's Houses
    by Abbi Waxman

    A hilarious and poignant novel about four families and the affair that changes everything.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Leavers

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

One of the most anticipated books of 2017--now in paperback!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T E H N Clothes

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.