Small Island

Small Island

4.0 3

DVD (Wide Screen)

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Small Island 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
ECottrell_RiverwoodWriter More than 1 year ago
I gave it a solid 4 stars, because it offered a glimpse into a slice of postwar (WWII) history from a unique perspective - that of Jamaican immigrants in Britain. The voice changes between the four main characters: Hortense and her husband Gilbert from Jamaica and their white landlord Queenie and her husband, Bernard. The Jamaican patois lent an authentic touch, and since the author was born in England to Jamaican parents, I wondered if there wasn't a good bit of family biography disguised as fiction. The theme of third world citizens dreaming of escaping to what they believe will be a grander, happier life is not new, and Hortense, well educated for her Jamaican community and with high aspirations of teaching in England, certainly had dreams that were shattered again and again. Gilbert, who had fought valiantly in the RAF during the war, expects to be hailed as a war hero. Both encounter unexpected racism and snobbery in 1948 London as they compete unsuccessfully with thousands of returning soldiers who are also looking for jobs. Queenie deals with loneliness and lust as her dull banker husband goes to war and doesn't return when it's over. When he finally does show up, he has faced demons of his own in the awful things he witnessed, and now he must deal with a wife who not only thought he was dead but who is also pregnant. The threads of racism, sexual and cultural tension, colonialism, and the deprivations and hardships of war are all drawn well. Each of the characters is flawed in his or her own way, but as products of their own pasts and circumstances, they were portrayed movingly, realistically, and compassionately. One of the most poignant aspects of the book -- RAF veteran Gilbert's rejection by Londoners after fighting with great devotion for his mother country, England -- was described in a review from Publishers Weekly: "When Gilbert realizes that his pride in the British Empire is not reciprocated, he wonders, 'How come England did not know me?' His question haunts the story as it moves back and forth in time and space to show how the people of two small islands become inextricably bound together."
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