Toni Morrison - Love - 2005
Different from her usual novels but just as exciting and interesting. Toni Morrison manages to describe so many different women, all in love with the same guy. A lot of different characters, a lot of different subjects: love, rivalry, charity, struggles. I really like the author and her books.
(thread first started 28.04.06)
Paradise is centred on the lives of the inhabitants of Ruby, Oklahoma, a town established and run by African Americans, the descendants of slaves who strive to maintain racial purity. When their environment is seemingly threatened by four women who move into an old convent on the outskirts of the town, the inhabitants take the law into their own hands and exact a brutal cleansing.
This is not an easy read, but the way it deals with racism is interesting in that Morrison uses the xenophobia of the townspeople to engender hatred for their own kind. It's an interesting examination of the effects of slavery and mistrust of these former slaves. Like Beloved, it highlights the pride and determination of the African American people.
Nearly finished this book, which is set in 1926 and covers the lives of Violet (a woman who attacks a dead woman at her funeral) and her husband Joe (who was the lover of said dead woman). It has lots of flashbacks and the same scene shown from different characters points of view, which adds to the fully fleshed juicyness of what could be a real downer of a story.
So far I'm enjoying it a lot (no wonder Morrison is a Pulitzer Prize winner) but there are some sections/paragraphs that I couldn't follow at all. What I mean is, I couldn't figure out what she (the author) was referring to or what it was actually describing. I hate it when authors do that - a good editor would have pointed that out.
But a very interesting look at African Americans and their lives in the early 1900s.
When it comes to the giants of the second half of twentieth-century American fiction, it tends to be Mailer, Updike, Bellow and Roth. With DeLillo bubbling under, for some. Morrison seems to get left out of the big three/four/five, or whatever. She's not one of those literary giants. And I'm beginning to feel convinced this is because she's a giantess. And black. And therefore not in the running in quite the same way. I'm not saying she's not admired. Just that she's admired in a different way, and in a different category. Or two...
I don't remember how many times I put Beloved aside after reading just a couple of pages, but it was a lot. Nor do I remember in what circumstances I finally got into it and decided it was one of the most brilliant novels I'd ever read. Somehow or other I know I felt I'd done it justice.
I've just finished Paradise with the weird feeling that I haven't managed to do it justice first time around. But I'm convinced it's brilliant. There is more about American society in there than there is in twenty other novels, even good ones. There is more poetry in there than there is in a lot of so-called poems.
Various reviewers on the US Amazon site have praised the virtues of "difficult" books, and Paradise is very difficult indeed, even more so than Beloved. To do it justice you'd need to make notes on every single page. Nothing is ever explained. But it all makes sense... or it would have done if I'd taken the time.
I won't even begin to say what it's about. It's about just about everything.
Here's Ali Smith:
I'll believe Ali Smith any day. And the people on the US Amazon site that gave it *****.
But I'm afraid I can't possibly rate this. I'm not worthy to rate it. I'll abstain: Paradise can't be reduced to a number of asterisks. Not even five.
This beautiful and sad little book by Nobel prize winning Toni Morrison tells the story of slave-girl Florens in seventeenth century America.
Morrison uses luminescent prose in her depiction of a time when it was openly acceptable for one man to own another, and to explore some of the darkest aspects of human nature. The story seems to encompass not only the human passion of Florens and the tragic little family she comes to live with, but just about every horror of the time that you can imagine, from slave sales to witch hunts.
The book alternates from first person to third person, beginning in an arresting but also slightly bewildering confessional voice. Its most believable sections return to this voice and detail the obsession of Florens’s desire for the free negro blacksmith who is briefly her lover. Florens’s life is also coloured by her feelings towards the mother who gave her away, although she does not guess why. What the ‘mercy’ of the title refers to was an idea that had me puzzled until the end of the book.
A Mercy has distinct similarities to Morrison’s masterpiece, Beloved, but is a much shorter book and a good introduction to Morrison for those who have been meaning to get to her fiction, one day.