Always a sucker for the one-two punch of historical drama and a BBC production, I recently watched "Small Island" based on the award-winning book by Andrea Levy.
I was swept into the worlds of two strong, independent-minded women from opposite ends of the world, Jamaica and her mother county, England. Hortense, prim and determined to become a teacher, will do almost anything to break away from the lack of opportunity the small island of Jamaica offers. Instead, she pines for a glorious life in England, one befitting a teacher's station, including a "home with a doorbell and electric lights."
Queenie, desperate to escape her own squalid upbringing on a pig farm, throws in her lot with stiff upper lip-type, Bernard, and marries him, against her better judgment.
With the outbreak of World War II, the "Mother Country" calls for all her sons to come to her defense, including the citizens of Jamaica. Growing up studying British history and the glories of the Empire, many men rush to do their share in the war effort. War provides opportunity for advancement, but post-war Britain is not as evolved. Hotense's husband, a Jamaican solider, expecting a hero's return, is stung by the unequal and cruel treatment he and other black soldiers receive, despite their service. Hortense struggles to reconcile the England she dreamed of as a girl and the dank, bare-bulb room that awaits her as a newlywed.
Queenie's color-blind independence and career as landlord in her husband's absence leads to complicated circumstances upon his belated return from the Front.
Throughout the story, lyrical Jamaican accents dance over the harsh realities of bigotry in post-World War II England. The end of this story offers hope and a glimpse into modern day, although I wish there were more than two episodes to the series.
This DVD and book are available at Cecil County Public Libraries.
Recommended by Frazier Walker