A hauntingly beautiful novel of twentieth-century Jamaica and the Windrush generation's settlement in the UK.
"Alex Wheatle is the real deal; he writes with heart and authenticity" Kit De Waal
"Island Songs grabs your heart, not with pity but with wonder that such beauty can come from such a life" Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Independent
"Alex Wheatle writes from a place of honesty and passion" Steve McQueen, director of Small Axe
She wondered what kind of world she had brought her two daughters into, the arduous cycle of rural Jamaican life. No chance for them to set off upon adventures and see the outside world.
But sisters Jenny and Hortense Rodney, descendants of the fierce Maroon people, do get to see the outside world, and Island Songs is their story. Growing up in rural Claremont, working amid the hustle and bustle, lawn parties and houses of joy in Trenchtown, the two sisters take a chance and move to England with their husbands, that far-off land of riches, where they settle down to motherhood among the jazz cafes and bleak streets of Brixton.
A hauntingly beautifully written evocation of twentieth-century Jamaica, its history and traditions, Island Songs is an epic of love, laughter and sorely tested family loyalties. Many stories are told, but many more secrets are never revealed.
By the author of Brixton Rock, East of Acre Lane and Homeboys, and several bestselling, prizewinning novels for younger readers
Alex Wheatle is the real deal; he writes with heart and authenticity, books that make you laugh and worry and cry and hold your breath. It's a pity there's only one of him
Island Songs and East of Acre Lane, two must-reads - grab your heart, not with pity but with wonder that such beauty can come from such a life - Independent
Island Songs is a novel brought to life by a wealth of vivid detail and a superb cast of supporting characters. Alex Wheatle has a real talent for understated, convincing dialogue - Big Issue
Brixton Rock and East of Acre Lane were spirited, gritty depictions of life for second-generation black Britons in the 1980's. In Island Songs, his most ambitious novel so far, he tells the story of their parents' generation. An expansive family saga, it spans five generations but eventually narrows its focus to two sisters, Hortense and Jenny, who grow up in the 1940s and 1950s on a smallholding in Claremont, Jamaica. They inherit their free-spirited, sometimes fiery temperament - the source of much of the novel's drama, comedy, and fabulously witty patois dialogue - from their father, who traces his lineage back to the Maroons, a mountain-dwelling community of freedom-fighting escaped slaves - Independent on Sunday
I dare you not to be mesmerised by the 'susu' talk of the church congregation, the daily annoyances of box drink vendors and the street slanguage of Brixton. Wheatle's description of the simplicity of Jamaican life 'back in the days' floats you into the fields of callaloo and sweet potato with the sound of off-key church vocals in the back. It brings a new dimension to the struggles of the people of that period and shows just how much hope they had for the 'gold streets of Englan'. This novel will be nostalgia trip for anyone who grew up in similar circumstances and a breath of fresh Jamaican air for anyone else. So, sit back and pick up the time-travel book that delivers a real insight into 20th century Jamaica and her offspring. - The Voice
Alex Wheatle is the bestselling author of several books including the modern classic Brixton Rock, and the multi-award winning Crongton series. He was awarded an MBE for his services to literature in 2008, has been twice nominated for the Carnegie Medal, and has won numerous awards including the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize.