Who was Andrea Levy?
Andrea Levy was an English author best remembered for penning down the 2004 novel ‘Small Island’ and the 2010 novel ‘The Long Song’. Both novels garnered her various recognitions and honors, including the Orange Prize for Fiction and Commonwealth Writers Prize. As a daughter of Jamaican parents, she usually explored topics related to British Jamaicans in her works. Born in Archway, London, Levy was raised in a typical working-class family. While growing up on a council estate in north London, she studied at Highbury Hill Grammar School and later attended Middlesex Polytechnic where she studied textile design and weaving. Following her graduation, Levy started her career as a costume assistant. She did not have a reading habit until the age of 23; she subsequently began to read and started writing in her mid-30s. Her first novel, ‘Every Light in the House Burnin', was published in 1994 and attracted favorable reviews. Levy continued writing until her death from metastatic breast cancer in 2019.
Andrea Levy initially kicked off her career as a costume assistant and served part-time in the costume departments of the Royal Opera House and BBC. During this time, she also started a graphic design company. In 1994, she released her first novel titled ‘Every Light in the House Burnin' which attracted favorable reviews. This semi-autobiographical novel depicted her life as a young child of Jamaican migrants residing in north London. This was followed by the novel ‘Never Far from Nowhere.’
Following her visit to Jamaica for the first time, Levy gained information regarding her family’s background and penned down what she learned in her book ‘Fruit of the Lemon’. Set in England and Jamaica, the novel that was published in 1999 highlighted the differences between Jamaican immigrants and their British descendants. She next came up with her fourth novel, ‘Small Island’. Focusing on the aftermath of World War II and its effects on migrants, the novel was a critical success. It earned several awards and honors, including 'Orange Prize for Fiction' and ' Whitbread Book of the Year'.
Levy’s fifth and final novel titled ‘The Long Song’ also captured the critics’ attention and eventually won the 2011 Walter Scott Prize. It was also shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize and was cited as a "sensational novel" by ‘The Daily Telegraph.’ The Long Song was later adapted as a three-part BBC One series that premiered in December 2018.
In 2014, Levy got her short book ‘Six Stories and an Essay’ published. The short book depicted an autobiographical essay and included stories drawn from various life experiences.
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Family & Personal Life
Andrea Levy was born on 7 March 1956, in Archway, London, England, as the fourth child in a middle-class family. She was of primarily Afro-Jamaican descent. She grew up on a council estate in north London’s Highbury. She studied in Highbury Hill Grammar School. Later, she attended Middlesex Polytechnic where she studied textile design and weaving. In 2005, Levy was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Talking about her love life, the author was married to Bill Mayblin. Together, they owned a graphic design company. On 14 February 2019, Levy breathed her last after living with metastatic breast cancer for about 15 years. She was 62.