9780312571146

The Long Song A Novel

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780312571146

  • ISBN10:

    0312571143

  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 4/26/2011
  • Publisher: Picador

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Summary

THE AUTHOR OF SMALL ISLAND TELLS THE STORY OF THE LAST TURBULENT YEARS OF SLAVERY AND THE EARLY YEARS OF FREEDOM IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY JAMAICA Small Island introduced Andrea Levy to America and was acclaimed as "a triumph" ( San Francisco Chronicle). It won both the Orange Prize and the Whitbread Book of the Year Award, and has sold over a million copies worldwide. With The Long Song, Levy once again reinvents the historical novel. Told in the irresistibly willful and intimate voice of Miss July, with some editorial assistance from her son, Thomas, The Long Song is at once defiant, funny, and shocking. The child of a field slave on the Amity sugar plantation, July lives with her mother until Mrs. Caroline Mortimer, a recently transplanted English widow, decides to move her into the great house and rename her "Marguerite." Resourceful and mischievous, July soon becomes indispensable to her mistress. Together they live through the bloody Baptist war, followed by the violent and chaotic end of slavery. Taught to read and write so that she can help her mistress run the business, July remains bound to the plantation despite her "freedom." It is the arrival of a young English overseer, Robert Goodwin, that will dramatically change life in the great house for both July and her mistress. Prompted and provoked by her son's persistent questioning, July's resilience and heartbreak are gradually revealed in this extraordinarily powerful story of slavery, revolution, freedom, and love.

Author Biography

Andrea Levy was born in England to Jamaican parents. Her fourth novel, Small Island, won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award, the Orange Prize for Fiction: Best of the Best, and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. The television adaptation of her novel won an International Emmy for best TV movie/miniseries. The Long Song was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and she is also the author of Fruit of the Lemon, among others. She lives in London.

Table of Contents

CHAPTER 1

IT WAS FINISHED ALMOST as soon as it began. Kitty felt such little intrusion

from the overseer Tam Dewar’s part that she decided to believe

him merely jostling her from behind like any rough, grunting, huffing

white man would if they were crushed together within a crowd. Except

upon this occasion, when he finally released himself from out of her, he

thrust a crumpled bolt of yellow and black cloth into Kitty’s hand as a

gift. This was more vexing to her than that rude act—for she was left to

puzzle upon whether she should be grateful to this white man for this

limp offering or not . . .

Reader, my son tells me that this is too indelicate a commencement of

any tale. Please pardon me, but your storyteller is a woman possessed of

a forthright tongue and little ink. Waxing upon the nature of trees when

all know they are green and lush upon this island, or birds which are

plainly plentiful and raucous, or taking good words to whine upon the

cruelly hot sun, is neither prudent nor my fancy. Let me confess this

without delay so you might consider whether my tale is one in which

you can find an interest. If not, then be on your way, for there are plenty

books to satisfy if words flowing free as the droppings that fall from the

backside of a mule is your desire.

Go to any shelf that groans under a weight of books and there,

wrapped in leather and stamped in gold, will be volumes whose contents

will find you meandering through the puff and twaddle of some

white lady’s mind. You will see trees aplenty, birds of every hue and

oh, a hot, hot sun residing there. That white missus will have you

acquainted with all the many tribulations of her life upon a Jamaican

sugar plantation before you have barely opened the cover. Two pages

upon the scarcity of beef. Five more upon the want of a new hat to wear

with her splendid pink taffeta dress. No butter but only a wretched alligator

pear again! is surely a hardship worth the ten pages it took to

describe it. Three chapters is not an excess to lament upon a white

woman of discerning mind who finds herself adrift in a society too dull

for her. And as for the indolence and stupidity of her slaves (be sure you

have a handkerchief to dab away your tears), only need of sleep would

stop her taking several more volumes to pronounce upon that most

troublesome of subjects.

And all this particular distress so there might be sugar to sweeten the

tea and blacken the teeth of the people in England. But do not take my

word upon it, peruse the volumes for yourself. For I have. And it was

shocking to have so uplifting an act as reading invite some daft white

missus to belch her foolishness into my head.

So I will not worry myself for your loss if it is those stories you

require. But stay if you wish to hear a tale of my making.

As I write, I have a cup of sweetened tea resting beside me (although

not quite sweet enough for my taste, but sweetness comes at a dear price

here upon this sugar island); the lamp is glowing sufficient to cast a light

upon the paper in front of me; the window is open and a breeze is cooling

upon my neck. But wait . . . for an annoying insect has decided to

throw itself repeatedly against my lamp. Shooing will not remove it, for

it believes the light is where salvation lies. But its insistent buzzing is

distracting me. So I have just squashed it upon an open book. As soon as

I have wiped its bloody carcass from the page (for it is in a volume that

my son was reading), I will continue my tale.

Excerpts

CHAPTER 1
IT WAS FINISHED ALMOST as soon as it began. Kitty felt such little intrusion
from the overseer Tam Dewar’s part that she decided to believe
him merely jostling her from behind like any rough, grunting, huffing
white man would if they were crushed together within a crowd. Except
upon this occasion, when he finally released himself from out of her, he
thrust a crumpled bolt of yellow and black cloth into Kitty’s hand as a
gift. This was more vexing to her than that rude act—for she was left to
puzzle upon whether she should be grateful to this white man for this
limp offering or not . . .
Reader, my son tells me that this is too indelicate a commencement of
any tale. Please pardon me, but your storyteller is a woman possessed of
a forthright tongue and little ink. Waxing upon the nature of trees when
all know they are green and lush upon this island, or birds which are
plainly plentiful and raucous, or taking good words to whine upon the
cruelly hot sun, is neither prudent nor my fancy. Let me confess this
without delay so you might consider whether my tale is one in which
you can find an interest. If not, then be on your way, for there are plenty
books to satisfy if words flowing free as the droppings that fall from the
backside of a mule is your desire.
Go to any shelf that groans under a weight of books and there,
wrapped in leather and stamped in gold, will be volumes whose contents
will find you meandering through the puff and twaddle of some
white lady’s mind. You will see trees aplenty, birds of every hue and
oh, a hot, hot sun residing there. That white missus will have you
acquainted with all the many tribulations of her life upon a Jamaican
sugar plantation before you have barely opened the cover. Two pages
upon the scarcity of beef. Five more upon the want of a new hat to wear
with her splendid pink taffeta dress. No butter but only a wretched alligator
pear again! is surely a hardship worth the ten pages it took to
describe it. Three chapters is not an excess to lament upon a white
woman of discerning mind who finds herself adrift in a society too dull
for her. And as for the indolence and stupidity of her slaves (be sure you
have a handkerchief to dab away your tears), only need of sleep would
stop her taking several more volumes to pronounce upon that most
troublesome of subjects.
And all this particular distress so there might be sugar to sweeten the
tea and blacken the teeth of the people in England. But do not take my
word upon it, peruse the volumes for yourself. For I have. And it was
shocking to have so uplifting an act as reading invite some daft white
missus to belch her foolishness into my head.
So I will not worry myself for your loss if it is those stories you
require. But stay if you wish to hear a tale of my making.
As I write, I have a cup of sweetened tea resting beside me (although
not quite sweet enough for my taste, but sweetness comes at a dear price
here upon this sugar island); the lamp is glowing sufficient to cast a light
upon the paper in front of me; the window is open and a breeze is cooling
upon my neck. But wait . . . for an annoying insect has decided to
throw itself repeatedly against my lamp. Shooing will not remove it, for
it believes the light is where salvation lies. But its insistent buzzing is
distracting me. So I have just squashed it upon an open book. As soon as
I have wiped its bloody carcass from the page (for it is in a volume that
my son was reading), I will continue my tale.

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