One of his five best books on nations and lives in transition, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
Small IslandRead about another book on the list.
by Andrea Levy (2004)
With her fourth novel about Jamaicans seeking a better life in the motherland, Andrea Levy adds a twist. "Small Island," set in 1948, is as much about the British adjusting to Jamaicans as about Jamaicans adapting to Britain. In both cases, it was not easy. I remember the first black man to live on my street in London, in the 1950s; he moved in with Anne White next door. What a to-do! The rustle of lace curtains, neighbors' hands flying to cover their mouths as the couple strolled hand-in-hand. In Levy's story, a young immigrant named Hortense confronts the abyss between her lofty expectations and the postwar racist British reality. The man she has married is a disappointment, too. But Hortense marches on, swinging her handbag, overcoming every obstacle, and Levy's witty, penetrating, dead-on portrait of Britain's postcolonial discomfort is a triumph.