Born to a field slave on the Amity sugar plantation in Jamaica, July spends her days with her mother in the cane fields. This is until a recently transplanted English widow decides to take eight-year-old July from her mother, move her into the great house, rename her Marguerite and make her a lady's maid. July spends her days taking care of her mistress and remains close to her throughout the Baptist War and eventually, the end of slavery. Even when granted her "freedom" July remains on the plantation with her mistress. But when her mistress leaves the island along with July's lover and young child, she finds herself on her own and starting over as a free woman.
The Long Song is an incredible tale of slavery in Jamaica. It encompasses all of the heartbreak, horrors, and tragedies of slavery and yet is a tale of love, determination and resilience. It is told from the perspective of July later in her life, recounting her story as her son has asked her to do. The book jumps between July's present and past but is easy to follow. In the present July speaks directly to the reader. In the past, any dialogue spoken by the slaves is done in Jamaican patois. However, this is pretty easy to understand for the non-Jamaican and only adds to the richness of the story.
At times it does feel as though some characters or emotions are not as fully developed as they could be. However, the book seems honest in its writing of the characters and rather than using the stereotypical master or slave, it gives a wider portrayal of those involved.
The best thing about this book is it is told in a believable, authentic Jamaican voice. It is written in the style of Jamaican story-telling and this gives the story a rich voice and truly brings it to life.