This was one of those books on my reading list that didn’t jump out at me as something I’d recognised, heard of or appealed to me.
Since my sister had a copy though, I decided to bring it along on my holiday and have a read whilst relaxing around the pool and now, I’m really glad I did.
The book was moving, real and also really very funny. The turn of phrase utilised my Selvon was so on the money for capturing the emotion, sadness and loneliness that these West Indians were experiencing in old Blighty that their plights became yours as you read.
The novel was ground breaking in many aspects; it was the first novel detailing the lives of working class immigrants in beat down dialect after the British Nationality act in 1948, the creolised English and sections were written as streams of consciousness this connecting it with the modernist movement. All these aspects contribute to the overall disjointedness experienced by the characters in the novel.
Moses, the narrator in the novel, details the excesses and woes of himself and his friends and through them conveys the truths of congregation and segregation in a country they don’t wholly want to be in and a country which doesn’t want them. Feelings of the other and the outsider are constantly explored and portrayed poignantly and unforgivably honestly painting a black and white picture, so to speak, of life in Britain at that time.
Another true stroke of genius was Selvon’s talent for naming. Five past twelve has to be my favourite name, so called because he was blacker than midnight. Moses too, the leader in the promised land ‘where the streets were paved with gold”
The novels insight to language, race, class and humanity is touching, saddening but all tossed together with real humour to leave you not totally forlorn for Moses and his gang by the end of it.