Speaking on the condition that the recording would only be released after her death, Andrea Levy gave an in-depth interview to oral historian Sarah O’Reilly for the British Library’s Authors’ Lives project in 2014. Drawing on this recording, along with comments from friends, family and collaborators, this programme explores Levy’s changing attitude towards her history and her heritage and how it is intimately bound up with her writing.
Her first three books – Every Light In The House Burnin’ (1994), Never Far From Nowhere (1996) and Fruit Of The Lemon (1999) – explored questions of immigrant identity and were semi-autobiographical. Through her writing, she explored the historical connection between Britain and the Caribbean as a profoundly British concern, and her literary project was to make people of both small islands aware of their intertwined history.
It was the publication of the prize-winning Small Island in 2004 that propelled Andrea Levy to international acclaim. The novel told the story of Jamaican families like her own integrating into post-war Britain and drew directly from the experiences of her parents and their passage to the Mother Country. The success of Small Island held deep personal significance for Andrea.
Andrea Levy speaks here for the first time about living with a terminal illness and her hopes for posterity. We also hear an excerpt from a previously unpublished dialogue from her archives, in which she tackles her imminent demise with her trademark wit and wisdom.
With Gary Younge, Baroness Lola Young, Louise Doughty, Helen Edmundson, Sarah Williams, Margaret Busby, Sharmaine Lovegrove, Catherine Hall and Andrea’s husband Bill Mayblin. When: Saturday 8 February – 8.00pm-9.00pm –BBC RADIO 4