Extracts

Click on any of the following titles to read a brief discription of each book:

FOREWORD

THE BOOK YOU ARE now holding within your hand was born of a craving. My mama had a story—a story that lay so fat within her breast that she felt impelled, by some force which was mightier than her own will, to relay this tale to me, her son. Her intention was that, once knowing the tale, I would then, at some other date, convey its narrative to my own daughters. And so it would go on. The fable would never be lost and, in its several recitals, might gain a majesty to rival the legends told whilst pointing at the portraits or busts in any fancy great house upon this island of Jamaica.

It was a fine ambition from a noble old woman for whom many of her years were lived in harsh circumstance. This wish demanded respect.

Unfortunately for my mama, she then proceeded to convey her chronicle to me at some of my busiest hours. Indeed that sweet woman never seemed to grow too tired to seek me out: early morning, at the heat of midday, or late, late into the night; following me about the house while I was in the process of dressing or washing; whilst I waited for a meal to be brought; as I chewed; as I pushed the plate away; as I was deep in talk with my wife; even at my place of work as several of my men waited, curious for my instruction. It shamed me to find that I did not have time enough to give it heed—that on most occasions I feigned listening to her yarn when, in truth, not one word of it was entering my ear or my mind’s eye. Oh, how often did I nod to her when a vigorous shake of the head was what was required? I will not here go into the trouble that this caused within my household, but be sure to know there was plenty of it. No, let us pass with pleasure on to the solution that was eventually found. read more...


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It is 1948 in an England that is still shaken by war. At 21 Nevern Street, London, Queenie Bligh takes into her house lodgers who have recently arrived from Jamaica. She feels she has no choice. Her husband, Bernard, who she married to escape her dreary upbringing on a farm in the Midlands, was posted to India with the RAF during the war, but when the conflict was over he did not return. What else could she do?

Among her tenants are Gilbert and his new wife Hortense. Gilbert Josesph was one of the several thousand Jamaican men who joined the RAF to fight against Hitler. Returning to England after the war he finds himself treated very differently now that he is no longer in a blue uniform. It is desperation that makes him remember a wartime friendship with Queenie and knock at her door.

Hortense shared Gilbert’s dream of leaving Jamaica and coming to England to start a better life – that’s why she married him. But when she at last joins her husband, she is shocked by London’s shabbiness and horrified at the way the English live. Even Gilbert is not the man she thought he was.

Queenie’s neighbours do not approve of her choice of tenants, and neither would her husband, were he there. England may be recovering from a war but at 21 Nevern Street it has only just begun. read more...

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Faith Jackson fixes herself up with a great job in TV and the perfect flatshare. Neither are that perfect, as it happens. Nor are her relations with her overbearing, though always loving family.

Furious and perplexed when her parents suddenly announce their intention to retire back home to Jamaica, Faith makes her own journey there. Here she is immediately enfolded in the endless talk of her Aunt Coral, keeper of a rich cargo of family history.

Through the weave of her aunts storytelling a cast of ancestors unfolds, stretching back to Cuba and Panama, Harlem and Scotland. Funny and compassionate, refreshing and wise, Fruit of the Lemon is a story that passes through London and sweeps over continents. read more...

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Never far from nowhere tells the story of two sisters, Olive and Vivien, born in London to Jamaican parents and brought up on a council estate. They go to the same grammar school. Vivien's life becomes a chaotic mix of friendships, youth club, skinhead violence, A levels, discos and college. Olive three years older and a skin shade darker, has a very different story to tell... read more...
'Better opportunity' - that's why Angela's dad sailed to England from Jamaica in 1948 on the Empire Windrush. Six months later her mum joined him in his one room in Earl's Court.

Angela is the youngest of the Jacobs' four children. The book opens as her father becomes seriously ill and starts to move unsteadily though the care of the National Health Service. As she tries to help her mother, Angela begins to relive her childhood years spent on a council estate in Highbury.

These are the days of regulation navy school knickers, games of tin-tan-tommy out in the yard; holidays at Pontin's; church on Sundays; teenagers; complex hair-dos; relatives from 'back home'; occasional, half understood, half remembered slights.

With humour and compassion the world of the Caribbean immigrant family is opened up, showing how two generations lived and adapted to a fast-changing London. The finely drawn portraits of the parents, their dignity and solid values, contrast painfully with their drab surroundings in a London that is not always welcoming.
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The Long Song paperback cover
The Long Song

Small Island book cover
Small Island

Fruit of the Lemon book cover
Fruit of the Lemon

Never far from nowhere book cover
Never far from nowhere

Every light in the house burnin' book cover
Every light in the house burnin'