Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Nesting Ground Recommends

I finished reading Andrea Levy's Small Island a few days ago, and I must report that I enjoyed it cover-to-cover.

The lives of a Jamaican couple (Gilbert fresh from volunteering with the Royal Air Force, and Hortense all light-skinned and haughty) who move to England after the war are intertwined with one Mrs. Queenie Bligh, whose husband goes missing while fighting the war and shows up back on her doorstep two years after the whole shebang comes to an end. The characters take turns narrating in the present as well as in the "before," seamlessly sharing their entire life stories in voices so distinct I can still hear them in my head. One thing that I keep thinking on is Gilbert's desire for invisibility, a desire he settles on after being mistreated at his hard-won postal worker's job:

I yearned for home as a drunk man for whisky. For only there could I be sure that someone looking on my face for the first time would regard it without reaction. No gapes, no gawps, no cussing, no looking quickly away as if seeing something unsavoury. Just a meeting as unremarkable as passing your mummy in the kitchen. What a thing was this to wish for. That a person regarding me should think nothing. What a forlorn desire to seek indifference.

The novel is filled with fresh takes on empire, racism, love, and forgiveness. Plus, it's often funny. And we all know how the Nesting Ground Mistress likes funny...

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