Never judge a book by its cover. I learned the lesson all over again with Andrea Levy’s The Long Song. A bit too long, lousy and lacking in spirit. Maybe it’s just me. I’ve read far too many books on black slaves being ill treated at the hands of colonialist Brits. The only thing different about this one is that it’s set in Jamaica. (I kept thinking of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and felt disappointed. Unfair to compare?)
The Long Song is the story of July, a slave girl living on a sugar plantation called Amity in the beginning of the nineteenth century. Separated from her mother when just a child, July saw the abolition of slavery, the Baptist War, the revolting Negroes, love, betrayal, injustice, poverty and then the unthinkable – her son returned to her as a wealthy publisher and coaxed her into writing her story. That’s pretty much it.
I judge (for want of a better word) a book depending on how it makes me feel, what it leaves behind when I turn the last page. A good book always evokes a strong emotion and its passages, characters and mood linger on. This one left a vague, insipid sense of relief. Over! Read it if you must. I have nothing particularly against July or her story.