Some Unsung Songs: Andrea Levy’s Late, Unpublished Works


  • Michael Perfect Liverpool John Moores University


Andrea Levy, contemporary literary archives, Caribbean history, Mary Seacole, racism, diversity in broadcasting, Small Island, The Long Song


This article explores projects which Andrea Levy worked on in her final years but which did not come to light during her lifetime. Drawing extensively on material found in Levy’s personal archive, it considers the form, scope, aims, and qualities of these works. It also reflects on some links between them, as well as how they relate to her published oeuvre. In particular, it highlights the politically-engaged nature of much of Levy’s late unpublished work.

The first part of the article explores material from Levy’s archive relating to a possible sixth novel. This is followed by a detailed discussion of the project in which Levy came to be most invested during her final years: a documentary mini-series on the historical relationship between Britain and the Caribbean. In collaboration with others, Levy developed and pitched this series, ultimately unsuccessfully, to the BBC. As well as Levy’s intentions for and development of the project itself, her subsequent reflections on its rejection are also discussed. The article then discusses a screenplay that Levy wrote based on Mary Seacole’s autobiography. In re-telling Seacole’s story, Levy’s screenplay deftly explores the ways in which that story came to be overshadowed. The last section of the article explores projects that Levy contemplated in the final years of her life but did not significantly develop. It also discusses the short piece “Two”, which was found in Levy’s archive after her death.

Author Biography

Michael Perfect, Liverpool John Moores University

Michael Perfect is a Senior Lecturer in English Literature at Liverpool John Moores University. His research interests are in twentieth- and twenty-first-century literature and culture. His first book, Contemporary Fictions of Multiculturalism, was published with Palgrave in 2014, and his work has also appeared in The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, The Journal of Postcolonial Writing, The Journal for Cultural Research, Dictionary of Literary Biography, and numerous edited collections. He has written for The Guardian’s Higher Education Network, and been interviewed on local and national radio. His second book focuses on Andrea Levy, and is forthcoming with Manchester UP. He was the first academic to carry out research on Levy's archive, and his ongoing work on the archive is supported by a BA/Leverhulme research grant. In addition to his work on Levy, he is currently developing a project that relates to screen adaptations of contemporary transnational novels.