In the short story we have Hortense, who has worked hard from the age of sixteen to buy a passage to go to England and train as a nurse. Hortense envisions a comfortable life for herself in England, one that is completed with a nice house and a fine garden smelling of roses among other things. And this new life, she wants to be picture perfect. She buys herself a winter coat – one that costs her a fortune, which, however she is sure will make everyone stare at her and admire – from her English employer; Mrs. Roberts, and a first class passage to travel in style to England that her mom considers a waste of money.
Mamma was a country girl. She was not what English people would call refined. She had not been as educated as I. She had not had the benefit of living for almost ten years in the household of one of the foremost English families in Jamaica. She had not seen how high life can be.
In the ship, full of optimism Hortense attempts to carry herself like a English high class person. But Andrea Levy hints us it is not a rosy experience with all the cultural adjustment and loneliness. Although she doesn’t explore deep into the immigration experience, I believe this short story must have been a great foundation to write Small Island.
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