Samuel Selvon is a novelist and essayist born on May 20, 1923 in San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago. As an East Indian, his heritage plays a major role in his published works as he often depicts experiences particular to people of color. Since he was a child, Selvon was an avid reader and writer, and he continued his studies of literature at Naparima College. He worked as a journalist for the Trinidad Guardian after graduation, also writing short stories in his free time. He published his pieces in literary magazines under various pseudonyms, including Big Buffer and Michael Wentworth. Selvon’s foray into novel writing began with the publication of The Lonely Londoners in 1956.
The Lonely Londoners tells the story of black people living in post-World War II London. Selvon veers from traditional storytelling, so there is not a specific plotline the novel adheres to. It merely details the conditions of lower to middle class, non-white individuals as they endure the racism of the times. A character piece at its core, this book sheds light on the human condition of minority people.
Upon its publication, The Lonely Londoners garnered rave reviews from critics and audiences for its brutally realistic portrayal of racial prejudice. Andrea Henry of The Independent praises Samuel Selvon for “telling with humour, realism and pathos an intimate story of the capital's first West Indian immigrants. Home was a confused issue: partly England, partly the country of their birth. Focusing on Notting Hill, Selvon perfectly captured the tug of both places on the heartstrings. London was bright, if smog-filled, with the new estates and the promise of work as magnates.”