The Lonely Londoners is another of the books to read for my Open University module coming up soon. It took me two goes to get into this book but once I got my head around the West Indian dialect (which the whole book is written in) it turned out to be a very easy read.
Lonely Londoners is the story of Moses Aloetta and his friends, newly arrived in London in the 1950’s and how they dealt with this new life, far away from their old homes. In the book, Moses has already been in the city for a number of years and starts as he meets Galahad at Waterloo train station. Moses knows the ins and outs of London life – where to find a place to live, where to find work, where the job centre is, where to meet girls and so on. His is often the name given to immigrants before arrival and he will meet these people at Waterloo. The story also tells stories of his friends among them – Galahad newly arrived and quite the ladies man; Cap’n who will borrow money off everyone, never pay it back but is so charming it never seems to matter; Tolroy who’s family descend on him including his overbearing aunt Tanty and Harris who drops his accent for a more social climbing English one.
It’s quite a topical story comparing ti to todays times. In the 50’s there was mass political outcry of West Indians stealing jobs and flooding the country, now it is Eastern Europeans and various parts of Africa. In the book newspapers are blamed for this negativity, today they still play a big part but it is not helped by the ease of publishing opinions on the internet. As someone who has worked in a job centre it’s interesting to read about the process as it was 60 years ago. I’m not sure it’s actually changed all that much!
The majority of the story is written in a lovely upbeat style echoing the way Caribbean people are often portrayed; there’s no hurry, no worries, everythings grand. Even a small part describing a man beating his wife is written in this style. However in the last quarter the book changes tack. Through out the story most of it is set in winter however for about 4-5 pages the season changes to British summer time and Sevlon switches to a stream of consciousness style of writing with no punctuatio. It’s a very exhausting few pages and starts the change of feelings for Moses. The final few pages see him musing on the idea of returning to his homeland and why he never has. He is suffering from homesickness but in the end decides to stay. The subject of homesickness is raised several times but Moses as the voice of the book often says no matter how much money they may get and how often they say they will use it to return home they never will. It doesn’t really explain why they wouldn’t return home just that as the seasons change again, life moves on butmoves on in England.
All in all a lovely easy going story that despite being about the loneliness of London seems to me to say the loneliness is acceptable if you have good friends.