Joking aside: ‘The Long Song’ by Andrea Levy

This novel was shortlisted for the Booker Prize four years ago, but I decided to read it because I had enjoyed an earlier book the author had composed. The theme of ‘The Long Song’ is slavery in Jamaica, and I had not read a historical novel for some time so I thought I would take the plunge. Slavery is obviously a really grim subject, and I was prepared for a harrowing reading experience.

Initially, the narrative confounded my expectations in an uncomfortable way. The story was full of humour, and the style was somewhat reminiscent of some of the work of William Makepeace Thackeray. However, I did think that Thackeray had a flair which made the comparison somewhat flattering to the very industrious Andrea Levy.   

As the book moved on, the novel gradually obtained a greater level of seriousness  and I began to have fewer reservations about it. Slavery can be approached from a diversity of perspectives and the author was original enough to be brave. ‘The Long Song’ has not altered my views about the shocking evils of slavery significantly, but it has reminded me not to rush to judge a book. ‘The Long Song’ has been based on copious research, but I have been persuaded that it is an imaginative text.



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