The Emigrants by George Lamming

The Emigrants by George Lamming

Bajan Fiction

Source – Personal copy

When I looked at the list of books for this roll of the club which is 1954 (Well I’m lat I reviewed three last week but I still had two to et finished and review and this is the first of those two)I really wanted to try and read books from my shelves as I have a habit of just going and ordering from the list when it comes out then forget the books and miss reading them so I decided collect what I had which was a fair few about 8 books and this was one of them and I had long wanted to review a few books from the wind rush writers whom George Lamming was part of in fact he may have been the first writer from the Caribbean to have put across that experience of coming to Post war Uk and how art felt . This book follows a group of men from all over the Caribbean on a boart to the Uk.Lamming initially taught English in Trinidad then he head to teach at a boarding school in England , he was also a broadcast on the show Caribbean voices a show that gave window to those first wave of writers like Lamming himself , his good friend Sam Selvon and Derek Walcott. This was his second book and focus much more on the experience of the emigrant.

The voices warmed to a rich peal of laughter and the Barbadian found no support for his correction. He raised himself and started with a feigned indignation down towards the Grenadian who on no occasion seemed willing to offend. The others laughed, enriching their banter about the small islanders. An altercation followed between the Barbadian and the Grenadian in which enumerate3d the virtues of his own island. The men hoisted themselves from the bunks and watched the adversaries who were not inclined to make any concessions

The boat can be weighted at time as people from the different islands clash

The book tries to capture a group of Emigrants as they travel on a boat from the Caribbean to the Uk this is the same journey the writer took himself in fact he was on the same boat as sam elevon when they came to the Uk there is Collis a writer how tries to see what is happening in proportion eight up what awaits them. Then we meet Dickson he is a teacher but he is a nervous character and sees the fear ahead of him and what may go wrong he is a real glass half empty type of person.Higgins a man with his dreams is happy to be going after see his paths blocked . As we see them head the narritve moves and gives the various feel of these and other character then we see what happens when they finally get there when the real England hits the version of England they all have had in the minds. As we see Higgins start to suffer as that intial optimism falls away. Then Dickson worst fears happen. We see what happened to many as they tried to settle in these large cities and a world that is so much different to there own.

When the strange man returned to the dec k it was highs who saw him first. He stood alone looking across the sea wondering what he should do next. He had found no real contact with the sailor, and he thought out certain way of approaching the West Indians. He scratched the back of his head, trying not to look in their direction.Higgins kept his head down thinking. He seemed to feel the strange man bewilderment, and his sympathy became more urgent. The men watched Higgins and wonder what was happening.The strange man couldn’t bear to be alone much longer. As the ship grew nearer the next stop which was England, the need for company became greater.

The boat draws closer the tense is there you can cut the air as they say.

This is a book that has a myriad of voice in it what he has tried to do is capture the Caribbean experience from every angle I this character but a lot of it is that list dream that feeling of how different the dream of Britain that they had is brought crashing to the ground when they step off that book he was a fan of Jouyce it seems and in part you c an see that here, Anthony Burgess was a huge fan of Lamming called him one of the best we have. This is a insight into a journey and experience that many people from the Caribbean took including the writer himself it is about the wanting of a better life the chance being able to Emigrate can bring but it also captures the woes and worries of this experience as well. it had a style I enjoyed it was jarring at times but I felt it worked as we jump in and out of these characters near the end we focus more on a few of the characters. It shows how hard it can be to leave behind all you know this should be a wider read book in fact all the wind rush books as they give a sense of perspective on the experience which although 70 years ago is still happening now with people want a better life !. Have you a favourite book from the Windrush generation of writers ?

Winstons score – A voices of the past caught in time of the wind rush experience

March 2023


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