Hello there! I have finished the Lonely Londoners, a novel that I think was given to me and that I knew nothing about when I opened it. This is a quick read, I managed it in five days with very little difficulty. Originally published in 1956, the novel is also set in the 50s around the time when there was a great surge of emigration from the West Indies to London. Like the novel’s protagonist Moses Aloette, Sam Selvon is Trinidadian born. Selvon has given his novel a rich dialect and a tapestry of story telling that gives life and layers to his narrative.
The narrative follows Moses in an easy, relaxed story telling, mostly surrounding the mischief and struggle of both himself and his friends in bleak, foggy London. And no surprises here, but the novel acts as a social commentary as well as a tangle of lives.
How did I find it? It’s a little disenchanting actually. We meet Moses at Waterloo Station as he waits for hopeful new arrivals from the West Indies. He meets Henry Oliver and as Moses is a Veteran of the city takes him under his wing. Henry Oliver plays the part of most of the new hopefuls coming to London expecting an easier life and to be a big fish in a far bigger pond than he expects. Moses having lived in London for years, takes pity on him and ultimately the narrative breaks into little stories about Henry ‘Sir Galahad’ Oliver and other members of their community.
Moses is pessimistic and disenchanted, by the end of the novel its is very clear he is struggling with homesickness, or craving a far simpler life than the one he possesses. However these feelings are mingled in with a great number of smaller tales that really feel like oral tales that are shared between friends. The novel is also written in dialect, so well in fact that in reading it you forget the dialect is present as it becomes part of the music of the novel. The character Harris, who has tried to social climb and rid himself of his accent, is clearly distinguished in dialogue and has tried to set himself apart from his friends. This integration of character detail really highlights the layers of social politics the workings of the novel.
Overall this novel deals with many thoughts and feelings that I am likely to under appreciate because of my background, ethnicity, and lack of knowledge. But it is a very enjoyable read and I feel is a time capsule of a London that is very different to 2016. This is a novel that deserves the title ‘modern classic’ and I certainly implore anyone to read it.