When Andrea Levy’s father Winston stepped off the Empire Windrush in July 1948, he had no idea that in time the ship’s name would come to describe a group of people betrayed by the British government, or that his daughter would become the voice of that generation. Her best-selling novel Small Island, about the experiences of Jamaican families integrating into post-war Britain, captured the imaginations of readers around the world and picked up nearly every award going upon publication in 2004.
But Andrea’s story goes much further back than Small Island. Her earlier books, like Every Light In The House Burnin’ and Fruit of the Lemon, explored questions of hybrid identity, providing rich details of a divided Britain in the second half of the twentieth century along the way. And her most recent novel, The Long Song, traced these themes all the way back to 1830s Jamaica, where the abolition of slavery failed to solve the many iniquities of colonisation.
As BBC One prepares to broadcast a new adaptation of The Long Song, with an all-star cast, imagine… profiles Andrea Levy and the journey she has made to become one of Britain’s best-loved contemporary novelists. From her childhood in a Highbury council flat to the creative writing classes where she discovered her talent, Andrea tells Alan Yentob about the power of literature to transform lives.
With contributors including Lenny Henry, David Oyelowo, Benedict Cumberbatch and rising star Tamara Lawrance, this is the moving account of one of the most powerful voices of our generation.