Six Stories and an Essay by Andrea Levy: That Polite Way That English People Have

Six Stories & an Essay

In That Polite Way That English People Have, Andrea Levy introduces Hortense “Blossom” Hunter to us, who would later become a main character in Small Island novel.

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.

[This post contains affiliate links from Book Depository, an online book retailer with free international shipping. If you buy via these links it means I receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you).]



  1. I like the sound of this book, the way you write about it. I’m going to keep an eye out for it at my local bookstore.


    1. Yes, it is a good one. 🙂 It also has a brief introduction at the beginning of each story making it an interesting read.

      Liked by 1 person

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