The Housing Lark

Sam Selvon. Penguin Classics, $13 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-0-14-313396-4
In this vibrant comic novel from Selvon (1923–1994), set in 1960s London, readers are introduced to an eclectic cast of West Indian characters. Battersby, Gallows, Poor, Henry Calypso, and others fight to scrape out a meager life for themselves in the segregated slums of London. Living several to a room while working menial jobs, these men and women share dreams, hopes, and a need for a place of their own. Fighting an often racist and exploitative rental housing market, the motley crew decides to save for a house together. This becomes the impetus of the story as readers follow these men and women through obstacles both humorous and poignant. Can they resist temptations like gambling, smoking, and drinking to save money? Can they trust each other, and, specifically, Battersby to function as group treasurer and hold their meager savings? (They can’t.) Through rich Caribbean dialects and an episodic narrative, Selvon explores issues of upward mobility and racism, and the chasm between dreams and brutal reality. This is a unique, gritty, and memorable portrait of the large Caribbean immigrant population in urban 1960s and ’70s England. (Jan.)
Reviewed on : 11/08/2019
Release date: 01/14/2020
Genre: Fiction
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