Fruit of the Lemon

( 4 )

Overview

From Andrea Levy, author of Small Island and winner of the Whitbread Book of the Year and the Best of the Best Orange Prize, comes a story of one woman and two islands.

Faith Jackson knows little about her parents' lives before they moved to England. Happy to be starting her first job in the costume department at BBC television, and to be sharing a house with friends, Faith is full of hope and expectation. But when her parents announce that they are moving "home" to Jamaica, ...

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Fruit of the Lemon

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Overview

From Andrea Levy, author of Small Island and winner of the Whitbread Book of the Year and the Best of the Best Orange Prize, comes a story of one woman and two islands.

Faith Jackson knows little about her parents' lives before they moved to England. Happy to be starting her first job in the costume department at BBC television, and to be sharing a house with friends, Faith is full of hope and expectation. But when her parents announce that they are moving "home" to Jamaica, Faith's fragile sense of her identity is threatened. Angry and perplexed as to why her parents would move to a country they so rarely mention, Faith becomes increasingly aware of the covert and public racism of her daily life, at home and at work.

At her parents' suggestion, in the hope it will help her to understand where she comes from, Faith goes to Jamaica for the first time. There she meets her Aunt Coral, whose storytelling provides Faith with ancestors, whose lives reach from Cuba and Panama to Harlem and Scotland. Branch by branch, story by story, Faith scales the family tree, and discovers her own vibrant heritage, which is far richer and wilder than she could have imagined.

Fruit of the Lemon spans countries and centuries, exploring questions of race and identity with humor and a freshness, and confirms Andrea Levy as one of our most exciting contemporary novelists.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise from the U.K. for Fruit of the Lemon:

"Levy's raw sense of realism and depth of feeling infuses every line."—Elle

"Bright and inventive . . . Levy's command of voices, whether English or Jamaican, is fine, fresh and funny."—The Observer

"Always refreshingly undogmatic . . . [readers] will recognize the truthfulness of the world which Andrea Levy describes."—The Sunday Telegraph

"A thoughtful comment on racism and the importance of knowing where you are from."—The Sunday Times

Praise for Small Island:

Winner of The Commonwealth Prize and Shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award

"A perfectly crafted tale of crossed lives and oceans . . . Happily, the hype is warranted—Small Island is a triumph."—San Francisco Chronicle

"Andrea Levy's beautifully wrought novel is a window into 1948 England. . . . Levy demarcates class lines effortlessly—sparing postwar England nothing of its racism—as she weaves a bristling, funny, angry tale of love and sacrifice."—Entertainment Weekly

The New Yorker
Levy’s previous novel, “Small Island,” examined the lives of Jamaican immigrants in Britain in the nineteen-forties. Here she depicts the next generation: the London-born children, circa 1970, who grapple with the knowledge that they are often still considered outsiders. Faith, working as a dresser for children’s television, is a somewhat heedless young woman whose assumption that she lives in a color-blind world is quickly demolished. At work, she finds that the only actors she’s allowed to touch are dolls; soon afterward, she helps a black woman who has been attacked by three youths. Her concerned parents send her to Jamaica, where she slowly recovers a sense of balance and uncovers her family’s past. Faith’s initial obliviousness to prejudice makes the first half of the book feel implausible; but, once the narrative moves to Jamaica, Levy’s remarkable ability to weave a complex, engrossing family history takes over.
Uzodinma Iweala
Though Levy writes specifically about black Jamaican Britons and their struggles to be acknowledged as full members of the larger society, her novel illuminates the general situation facing all children of postcolonial immigrants across the West, from the banlieue of France to the Islamic neighborhoods of New York to the Hispanic ghettos of Los Angeles. Throughout the world, unwritten policies of exclusion have created a ferocious discontent among citizens of some nations — who know where they come from, even if they aren’t made to feel as if it’s home.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Levy's follow-up to the Orange Prize- and Whitbread-winning Small Island explores how racism reveals itself to a young British-born woman of Jamaican descent, and how the pain can be healed by knowledge of one's roots. Faith Jackson is having a rough go after college: she's fired from her apprenticeship at a prestigious textile designer's and her parents are planning to move back to Jamaica. Though Faith has experienced racism throughout her life, she begins to fear her ethnicity will hobble her career. As she becomes more aware of subtle forms of racism at her entry level job in the BBC costume department and elsewhere, she witnesses a hate crime and, in its aftermath, is sent to Jamaica by her parents for a helpful holiday. It's there, in the second half of the book, that Faith learns a great deal about her extended family and understands why her parents may want to return. Unfortunately, the tone shifts, and what was effective through understatement becomes a rushed unfolding of her family history, complete with diagrams of who begot whom. The change in voice and the narrator's issues with island life (particularly her frustration with its culture) obscure the more poignant aspects of her newfound knowledge. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Levy, winner of the Orange Prize and the Whitbread Book of the Year Award for Small Island, here delivers a solid meditation on the power of family stories. Faith Jackson begins a career in television with optimism only to be stymied by the casual racism that meets her everywhere in London. Confused, Faith turns to her Jamaican-born parents, but their solutions getting married and going to church don't resonate with her. Trapped between two worldviews, Faith literally takes to her bed until an invitation to visit Jamaica opens a new world of possibilities for her. The rambling, disconnected anecdotes of London life give way to an intricate tapestry of lively family narratives as stories of Faith's ancestors provide a foundation from which she can draw strength. Fans of Zadie Smith will appreciate Levy's explorations of race and class but may find it difficult to sympathize with Faith, whose na vet can be exasperating. A somewhat abrupt ending and slightly flat secondary characters hinder but do not spoil this otherwise solid effort. Recommended for large fiction collections. Leigh Anne Vrabel, Carnegie Lib. of Pittsburgh Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School
This book is divided into two major sections. First, readers learn about the protagonist, Faith, and her family's life in England, and that her parents had emigrated from Jamaica on a banana boat, arriving at West India Dock on Guy Fawkes Night and really only knowing England from what they'd learned in school. Life is not exactly as they'd planned it, but over time Wade and Mildred adjust to their new home, get jobs, buy a house, and start a family. They are proud of their children, especially Faith's work in the costume department at BBC, but Faith, who is a credible but sheltered young adult, isn't quite so pleased, as she becomes aware of the hidden and public racism all around her. She decides to visit Jamaica, and the book moves into its second section. Faith meets the family she has known only through letters, photos, and the stories her parents have shared with her. Listening to her Aunt Coral's tales provides her with insight into her parents' lives that she never could have imagined. She makes connections with the people and places of their youth and returns to England with a different perception of her mum, her dad, and herself. None of Faith's Jamaican relationships seems to be deep, but readers sense that maturity is just around the corner, perhaps once she reconnects with her family in Britain.
—Joanne LigamariCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
By the author of Small Island (2005), which won both the Orange and Whitbread Prizes, an engaging tale of emerging race identity and heritage, first published in the UK in 1999. More comic than Small Island, this book charts Faith Jackson's growing, increasingly positive acknowledgement of her blackness, her ancestry and her position in late-20th-century England. Her parents came to England-the Mother Country-from Jamaica on a banana boat, settled, worked hard and had two children, Faith and her brother Carl, who grew up in a happy household in London. Faith, who knows almost nothing about her parents' past or her relatives in Jamaica, takes a degree in fashion and textiles, then moves out of the family home into a shared house and gets a job at the BBC. So far, so normal, except that whether seeking a promotion at work or visiting the country home of one of her white housemates, she repeatedly encounters ingrained, unacknowledged British racism. Her parents' plans to retire to Jamaica and a violent right-wing attack on a black woman working in a local bookshop tip the balance, and Faith has a breakdown. To help her recover, she is sent to Jamaica to visit her aunt. On the island, Faith meets her relations and begins to piece together her family tree. A sequence of anecdotes and vignettes-stories of skin color, poverty, hard work, elitism, aspiration and emigration-reveals the tradition from which she has emerged. Levy neatly exposes the complex history of black Jamaicans in this series of episodes, which provides Faith with an answer for those bullies and racists: "I am the bastard child of Empire and I will have my day." An enjoyable, deft combination of humor and telling observation onowning one's race and roots.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312426644
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 1/23/2007
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 858,564
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

Born in 1956 to Jamaican parents, Andrea Levy is the author of three previous novels. She lives and works in London.

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Reading Group Guide

About this Guide

The following author biography and list of questions about Fruit of the Lemon are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach Fruit of the Lemon.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 19, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Brilliant Bright Star that fizzled in the end.

    I really really liked this book! It's fluid, interesting and easy to read. You get sucked into the story of Faith Jackson a Black British young woman with parents who emigrated from Jamaica. This is the story of Faith really discovering who she is and where she comes from. A completely relateable story as we all have that life defining experience when we stop and question, who am I really? Where did my family/ancestors come from? It's about Faith seeming to live in a sort of confusion or shadow of another's history until she is sent to Jamaica to her Aunt Coral to learn essentially who she really is and where her family came from. It's an amazing experience. She feels at home and suddenly culture shocked at not feeling so much the minority in a place where people look more like her. She gets her bearings and before she knows it it's time to go back to England. And..... the reader doesn't know what next? This is a great book and as an African American myself, I related to it on so many different levels. HOWEVER, the book was set up into three parts, England, Jamaica and England again. The author took such great detail engaging the reader in the first part of England, to turn the next page and see it is titled Jamaica, was exciting. Jamaica, started off as such a great adventure. The reader is right there on Faith's shoulder experiencing this sort of "going home" for the first time. The chapters are detailed with interludes featuring family trees and family history stories. The reader thinks, this is great! But then not sure if it was the author becoming tired with the writing of her own book or if there was some severe editing on the publishing level but it became extremely rushed. Details and names were compiled in a way that was confusing. There was less detail on Faith's experience in Jamaica, when it seems as this should have been the high point of the book. Faith was supposed to be discovering herself. There should have been an equal amount of detail as her life in England but there was not. This was disappointing. The only thing more disappointing was the fact that the last and third part of the book entitled England was one page. One page? The reader is left to guess at our main character's outcome once her plane hits British soil. The theme of this book seemed to be Faith's discovery of self but if it was rushed through the actual experience and then we know nothing about what happens when she goes back to the world she grew up in and how her discovery changed her...what was the whole point? Bright star..fizzled in the end. BUT still a good book.

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    Posted August 23, 2009

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