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
  • 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

Twenty-nine
Queenie

It wasn't me. Mrs Queenie Bligh, she wasn't even there. This woman was a beauty -- he couldn't get enough of her. He liked the downy softness of the blonde hairs on her legs. Her nipples were the pinkest he'd ever seen. Her throat -- he just had to kiss her throat. This woman was as sexy as any starlet on a silver screen. The zebra of their legs twined and untwined together on the bed. Her hands, pale as a ghost's, caressed every part of his nut-brown skin. She was so desirable he polished her with hot breath -- his tongue lapping between her legs like a cat with cream. It wasn't me. This woman watching his buttocks rise and fall sucked at every finger on his hand. She clawed his back and cried out until his mouth lowering down filled hers with his eager tongue. It wasn't me. This woman panted and thrust and bit. And when he rolled her over she yelped wickedly into the pillow. Mrs Queenie Bligh would never do such a thing. That one, Mrs Bligh, usually worked out what she could make for dinner during sexual relations with her husband. But this woman, if it hadn't been for the blackout, could have lit up London.

I'd felt him leave me in the night. With me naked under the slovenly bedclothes, the side of the bed that he'd heated so nicely gradually grew stone cold. I knew Michael, and the other two, were all down to catch an early train in the morning -- they'd asked about the best route to the station. It wasn't long before they were all jumping the stairs and slamming their way out, back to their squadron for more active service. But there was a gentle knock on my bedroom door before they left -- once, twice. It even opened a crack before it was carefully shut. It seemed so feeble to me just to say a simple goodbye. Truth of it was, Michael Roberts deserved a fanfare with trumpets and dancers. But with Arthur waking me so urgently it did occur to me that perhaps I was wrong -- that there was still a woolly-haired black head or a foot with five nigger toes where my buttoned-up, pyjamaed husband should have been.

'What is it, Arthur?' I asked. There are times when his eyebrows just will not do. Like a dog trying to get his master to come to rescue the kid down the well, I had to guess what these grunts and pointing fingers and headflicking movements meant. 'Oh, for pity's sake,' I finally snapped. 'There's nothing wrong with your voice, Arthur -- can't you just bloody well say it for once?' A blank curtain dragged across his eager expression and I immediately regretted what I'd said. I was so sorry.

He'd found a battered leather wallet that Sergeant Michael Roberts must have mislaid or forgotten in his rush to get away. There were photographs in its tattered inside. One of an old negro man standing formally in front of a house. Looking to all the world like a chimpanzee in clothes, this lord of the manor stood behind a seated black woman with white hair and a face as grumpy as Monday morning. Another was of a little darkie girl with fuzzywuzzy hair tied in ribbons as big as bandages. They were like any airman's photos, dog eared and fading with sentiment. The wallet must have fallen from his jacket when he was rummaging for his war-time weapons of seduction -- his tin of ham, his orange. But there was something about its tattiness that let you know this wallet had been places. Stuffed into a pocket, jammed into a kit-bag, sheltered in a hat. It was so beloved its preciousness warmed my fingers as I held it. It might even have been his good-luck charm. I was told that most flyers had them -- that they weren't safe flying without them. This was Michael Roberts's fortune and it had no place lying in my hand. So I dressed quickly with the idea of catching him at the station, handing it to him before it was too late. And, anyway, it was easier to find a coloured man in RAF uniform at a station than it was to spend the morning looking apologetically into Arthur's face and finding his wanton trollop of a daughter-in-law could no longer stare him in the eye.

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!

One-Month Free Membership

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Here I Am
    Here I Am
    by Jonathan Safran Foer
    With almost all the accoutrements of upper middle-class suburban life, Julia and Jacob Bloch fit the...
  • Book Jacket: Harmony
    Harmony
    by Carolyn Parkhurst
    In previous novels such as The Dogs of Babel and Lost and Found, Carolyn Parkhurst has shown herself...
  • Book Jacket: Commonwealth
    Commonwealth
    by Ann Patchett
    Opening Ann Patchett's novel Commonwealth about two semi-functional mid-late 20th Century ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Darling Days
    by iO Tillett Wright

    A devastatingly powerful memoir of one young woman's extraordinary coming of age.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Tea Planter's Wife
    by Dinah Jefferies

    An utterly engrossing, compulsive page-turner set in 1920s Ceylon.

    Read Member Reviews

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
This Must Be the Place
by Maggie O'Farrell

An irresistible love story for fans of Beautiful Ruins and Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Blood at the Root

Blood at the Root

"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

D C Y C Before T A H

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.

 
X

Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!



Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.