Archive for April, 2012

The Long Song by Andrea Levy

I hadn’t heard of this book until I saw it mentioned on The TV Book Show on Channel 4. They seemed to like it so I thought I’d give it a try with the group and see what everyone thought.

The Long Song is Andrea Levy’s first novel in six years, following the critically acclaimed and award-winning Small Island.

Told by July, a slave girl born on a Jamaican sugar plantation in the 19th century, this is the story of her life during and after the last years of slavery.

We had a few interesting topics to discuss in the group arising from this book and one particular topic (discussing the similarities of slavery back in 19th century Jamaica, and the comparisons of modern living and working) made for quite an interesting chat! (The similarities can be very scary!)

As a whole, our group found this to be a very interesting, enjoyable and thought provoking book about slavery in Jamaica in the 19th century and the tribulations of those unfortunate souls who worked on the sugar plantations. It made me wonder just how much truth was in those pages so I did a little research and found an essay which the author wrote explaining what The Long Song meant to her.

Here is what I found:

At a conference in London, several years ago, the topic for discussion was the legacy of slavery. A young woman stood up to ask a heartfelt question of the panel: How could she be proud of her Jamaican roots, she wanted to know, when her ancestors had been slaves? I cannot recall the panel’s response to the woman’s question but, as I sat silently in the audience, I do remember my own. Of Jamaican heritage myself, I wondered why anyone would feel any ambivalence or shame at having a slave ancestry? Had she never felt the sentiments once expressed to me by a Jamaican acquaintance of mine? ‘If our ancestors survived the slave ships they were strong. If they survived the plantations they were clever.’ It is a rich and proud heritage. It was at that moment that I felt something stirring in me. Could a novelist persuade this young woman to have pride in her slave ancestors through telling her a story? That was where the idea for The Long Song started.

You can see the full essay which Andrea wrote about the writing of The Long Song here:

It makes for interesting reading and I encourage anyone who has read the book, and would like to know more about the reasons for its writing, to take a look and have a read.

I thank everyone again for attending the book group in our shiny, new venue and look forward to seeing everyone at the next meeting on Tuesday 1st May. We will be discussing Night Waking by Sarah Moss.

See you there!

About the group

The Tees Valley Book Group meets at Stockton Central Library at 6.30pm on the first Tuesday of the month.

If you would like more information about what the group is reading, please visit


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