Monday, January 28, 2008

2008 Book 8: Sula

Book #:8
Book Title:Sula
Author:Toni Morrison
Publisher:Alfred A. Knopf
Pub. Date:1993 (my version); 1973 (original)
Started:January 26, 2008
Finished:January 26, 2008
Time to Read:Less than 1 day
Back Cover / Inside Flap:"Toni Morrison's first novel, The Bluest Eye (1970), was acclaimed as the work of an important talent written - as John Leonard said in The New York Times - in a prose 'so precise, so faithful to speech and so charged with pain and wonder that the novel becomes poetry.'

Her new novel has the same power, the same beauty.

At its center - a friendship between two women, a friendship whose intensity first sustains, then injures. Sula and Nel - both black, both smart, both poor, raised in a small Ohio town - meet when they are twelve, wishbone thin and dreaming of princes.

Through their girlhood years they share everything - perceptions, judgments, yearnings, secrets, even crime - until Sula gets out, out of the Bottom, the hilltop neighborhood where beneath the sporting life of the men hanging around the place in headrags and soft felt hats there hides a fierce resentment at failed crops, lost jobs, thieving insurance men, bug-ridden the invisible line that cannot be overstepped.

Sula leaps it and roams the cities of America for ten years. Then she returns to the town, to her friend. But Nel is a wife now, settled with her man and her three children. She belongs. She accommodates to the Bottom, where you avoid the hand of God by getting in it, by staying upright, helping out at church suppers, asking after folks - where you deal with evil by surviving it.

Not Sula. As willing to feel pain as to give pain, she can never accommodate. Nel can't understand her any more, and the others never did. Sula scares them. Mention her now, and they recall that she put her grandma in an old folks' home (the old lady who let a train take her left for the insurance)...that a child drowned in the river years ago...that there was a plague of robins when she first returned.

In clear, dark, resonant language, Toni Morrison brilliantly evokes not only a bond between two lives, but the harsh, loveless, ultimately mad world in which that bond is destroyed, the world of the Bottom and its people, through forty years, up to the time of their bewildered realization that even more than they feared Sula, their pariah, they needed her."

Review:I entered into the world of Toni Morrison expecting to be wowed.

I left very disappointed.

Since I picked up my first Judy Blume kids novel in about the first or second grade, I've read thousands upon thousands of books; my current library includes hundreds. I've read lighthearted fiction, serious classics, absurd parodies, intriguing mysteries, and embarrassing-to-read romances. Throughout my reading life, I've heard great, good, or iffy things about certain authors; my first read through their works typically backed up what I'd heard ahead of time.

With Toni Morrison, I'd always heard that she was a phenomenal author who empowered an entire race, as well as the entire female gender. I'd heard that her stories were captivating and engrossing.

What I really want to know, now, is why people would ever come to these conclusions about her writing! I encounter very few books that I do not enjoy on at least a basic level...but this was one of them. That summary up above? It's almost more substantive than the book itself; it's certainly better written. Morrison's writing is choppy, abrasive, juvenile and leaves out way to many details and stories to make Sula a cohesive novel.

Summation: skip it. I got the whole collection of Toni Morrison novels from my mom about a year ago, and it's doubtful that I'll read any others.

If you have read or are planning to read this book, please make sure to stop back by and leave me a comment to let me know your own thoughts!

From my library to yours,


1 comment:

The Mama Bear said...

Well, thanks for the warning. I have not heard of her, and now I don't think I will go looking for anything by her.