Monday, 14 June 2010

Just finished reading: Small Island



If you asked me when I was just half listening  if I liked history I'd probably say no. But that is because, even though I dropped it before O-Level, I vividly recall lessons that were comprised of tedious monologues about wars and laws that we were ordered to transcribe.  Enough to put anyone off  I hope you'd agree. However, given time to think I would admit that I do like to know about what day to day lives were like for our ancestors, the nuts and bolts of what went on in the recent and more distant past.  It might be that some novels set in past times may give us non history buffs more lasting insight into what life was like for our forebears than if we were to read a factual historic text.

Small Island is another book that I finished on holiday following the fluffier and far more risque start that I got off to (which is now being avidly passed around my smutty workmates!).  This is an beautifully written and enjoyable read about the reception that Carribean immigrants received after they were invited to England after the war.  Now I did realise that blacks were not always welcomed with open arms when they arrived.  What I hadn't appreciated was the contribution that they had made to the war effort prior to being so mistreated in the country  which, for me, makes the behaviour of people at that time even more deplorable. In  Clare Francis' book, Homeland, a similar theme is explored from the perspective of a main character, a Pole who decides to stay on after the war  in the Somerset Levels. Funnily enough, he isn't treated like a special guest and shown into the metaphorical front rooms of the time either.  I also didn't appreciate the rich food cultures that the immigrants left behind to be replaced by the shockingly bland English food.

Okay, I can't believe that all white people were quite so evil as they are portrayed in this book but perhaps us pinko lefties weren't in great abundance then.   And I take on board the criticism that some Amazon reviewers have made that the characters are rather stereotypical.  But I'm not too pedantic so forgive these faults. The book allowed me to tick the thought provoking and educational boxes that I like to cover to make my  holiday reading have a virtuous component and therefore comes recommended.

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