It's official, after one month I got caught up with essays, and eventually forgot my pledge to record every book. So as punishment, I shall blog every day until I'm caught up starting.... NOW
The Lonely Londoners
by Sam Selvon
A story of the immigrants that flooded London (in particular, though not exclusively) from the British colonies in the West Indies after world war two. Through a number of (I want to say caricature, but this is definitely the wrong word...) character portraits of men and the lives they live in an isolating and sometimes cruel city we learn of the conflicting problems that arose, both to native Londoners as well as to the immigrants.
Between the desire to assimilate into British culture, and the need to replicate some of their native cultures in order to provide some comfort and familiarity in a foreign land, we see the opposing forces of old and new. The variety of characters and the manner in which their story is told - in fragments, fluidly moving between time, space and people - ensures that the reader is never left with one idea of "The Immigrant". We see exploiters and con-artists contrasted with those who are exploited and duped, the work-shy with grafters, those who long to be a part of this new culture, to be English versus those who will not, or cannot, let go of their past and culture.
The main problem I had (not with the novel, but with the idea that arose around the whole immigration idea) was with characters who came to Britain to work, as was their right as citizens of the British empire, who then brought over their entire families from their native country. The primary focus of this in the novel is seen in Tanty, the aunt of a worker who has travelled, along with every other relative, to the UK in order to look after her nephew. I'm not sure why I found this so arresting, but in some ways it just seemed wrong that every member had an equal right to entrance to Britain, not only those willing to work or their immediate family relations.
In the majority of characters we then see a general dissatisfaction with the life they find in London, a sense of being let down from the golden life that they were promised or imagined. At the end of the novel, I found myself wondering whether immigrants ever reconcile their homesickness with their new home, or whether it is an ever present factor nagging in their heads, and asking why, if they were really so unhappy, they did not return home.
The fact is, that no matter how lonely they found themselves in London, the prospects appeared greater than those of their own countries, whether the reality reflected this or not.
Or So Catrin Says.