World War II was a game changer in multiple ways.
For those who lived in the former British colonies, they hoped that the motherland would provide them with opportunities that they did not have at home.
Some would be sorely disappointed.
Andrea Levy’s novel, Small Island, focuses on four distinct characters, two of whom hope that World War II has opened doors for them.
In 1948, Hortense Joseph leaves Jamaica for London. Her husband, Gilbert, joined the British army and finds that after the war, despite his service, he is considered to be second class due to his skin color. Gilbert’s white landlady, Queenie is living with her father in law while her husband, Bernard is away, fighting for king and country. But when he returns from the war, Bernard is suffering from unresolved issues from the war.
In 2009, Small Island was made into a TV movie starring Naomi Harris as Hortense, David Oyelowo as Gilbert, Ruth Wilson as Queenie and Benedict Cumberbatch as Bernard.
I enjoyed both the book and the television adaptation. It sheds light on a subject that many are unaware of. While the American civil rights movement in the 1960’s and 1970’s has become mythic in it’s own right, it is less known outside of Britain of the lives of it’s former colonists and their struggle to equality, acceptance and opportunities in the motherland.
I recommend both.