'She wondered what kind of world she had brought her two daughters into - the tedious cycle of rural Jamaican life. No chance for them to set off upon adventures and see the outside world.'
But sisters Jenny and Hortense Rodney, descendents of the fierce Maroon people, do get to see the world, and Island Songs is their story. Growing up in rural Claremont, working amid the hustle and bustle, lawn parties and 'houses of joy' in Trenchtown, the two sisters take a chance and move to England with their husbands, that far-off land of riches, where they settle down to motherhood amongst the jazz cafés and bleak streets of Brixton.
'Fire-nettle' Hortense and her husband Cilbert dream of finding prosperity through hard work in England, and eventually being able to return to Jamaica a wealthy family. Whilst Jenny, tied by the strong and complex bonds of sisterhood, follows Hortense in her travels and brings with her Jacob, her husband, who establishes the first black church in south London.
A beautiful evocation of twentieth-century Jamaica, its history and traditions, and equivocal status as an overlooked outpost of the dwindling British Empire, Island Songs is an epic of love, diaspora, and sorely tested family loyalties. Many stories are told, but many more secrets are never revealed.