TBT Review: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

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What is clear now is that of all of that hope, fear, lust, love, and grief, nothing remains but Pecola and the unyielding earth. Cholly Breedlove is dead; our innocence too. The seeds shriveled and died; her baby too. There is really nothing more to say—except why. But since why  is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how.

Today I’m doing a throwback to a book I read last year. My creative writing lecturer recommended this book years ago because of the timeline Morrison uses in The Bluest Eye. I finally read it. And from the first page Morrison’s style, and play with words captivated me.

Initial Insights

The Bluest Eye was like coming up for air. I’d read three John Grisham novels back to back (which I would not recommend) and needed something that would remind me why I enjoy reading.

Set in Lorain, Ohio, this epic tragedy tells the story of a little black girl, Pecola Breedlove, who longs for Blue Eyes. No. The bluest eyes in the world. Using different POVs and writing techniques, Morrison touches on beauty, abuse, racism, incest, and our innate desire to belong and be loved.

What I liked

The novel starts with a children’s story based on a basal reader Fun With Dick and Jane.

“Here is the house. It is green and white. It has a red door. It is very pretty. Here is the family. Mother, Father, Dick, and Jane live in the green-and-white house. They are very happy. See Jane. She has a red dress. She wants to play. Who will play with Jane?…”

This simple refrain is repeated but deconstructed in a manner that paints the destruction of each character, especially Pecola. It set the tone for the story Morrison’s technique also shadows the events in the story.

Pecola’s story is told through the narrative of others in her community: her friend, her parents, strangers. As if she has no voice of her own, which is sad but the Bluest Eye was meant to be a tragedy.

Morrison’s character development intrigued me. Most chapters had a different story arc that tied into Pecola’s life toward the end but the processed showed the brokenness of each character. I didn’t mind it at first because I suppose she wanted to show the flaws in all of them and the reasons for their actions. I found this interesting because other than Pecola’s father, Cholly Breedlove, I could empathize with all the characters.

Then there were the different narrative styles for each POV. The entire book is narrated by Claudia, who is looking back on a specific year when the Marigolds didn’t grow in their town. In the first section as Pecola’s storyline is explored, the narrative is simple and really true to the narrator. Short sentences humorous moments that reminded me of Scout and Jeremy Finch’s antics in “To Kill a Mocking Bird”.

Later the narrative style changes as Morrison explores Pecola’s parents through flashbacks and more complex sentence structure. Pauline Breedlove’s chapter was fun to read. Mostly because Morrison cut through the flashbacks with stretches of first person monologues. It felt as if Pauline was watching a documentary about her life and then clicked pause to reflect on key moments and their impact in her life and consequently Pecola’s.

Cholly’s chapter follows a similar style to Pauline’s but without the monologues. After Cholly’s back story we have Soaphead, whose story is also told in the third person narrative but includes a letter to God which he essentially writes to vent. In the letter, the reader is given a foretaste into Pecola’s fate.

Morrison ends with a dialogue between Pecola and either her inner self or an imaginary friend about her rape, her blue eyes, and whether she has the bluest eyes in the world. It’s really sad. This section has absolutely no narration just dialogue but again it was used in a creative way to communicate Pecola’s fate.

And then Claudia briefly wraps it all up with commentary on her and the community’s role in what becomes of Pecola. Much like the closing narrative in The Film version of the Help (still need to read the book).
What I didn’t like

After page 125 of this version, it gets quite graphic. There are a number of explicit sections. I skipped much of Cholly’s chapter and Soaphead’s letter.

Though the backstories served a purpose in the overall tale, I grew tired of being introduced to some new in each chapter. And I felt that Soaphead Church’s story was unnecessarily explicit in areas. Much of his letter was unneeded, in my opinion.

Final thoughts

Overall I loved this story. It was sad and deep and dark and it’s definitely a heavy read emotionally. But Morrison’s artistry makes it one of my literary treasures. I’d recommend it. But have something light-hearted on standby.

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Rating: 4/5

 

 

Buy this book: On Amazon | Exclusive Books

About the Author

Toni Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. She is the author of several novels, including The Bluest Eye, Beloved (made into a major film), and Love. She has received the National Book Critics Circle Award and a Pulitzer Prize. She is the Robert F. Goheen Professor at Princeton University.

What type of novels do you prefer?

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My August TBR Pile

“Yes, sometimes I read books because the covers are shiny.”

This year is already eight months in. Can you believe it? Here’s what I’ll be reading, and possibly reviewing – this August.

  1. Broken Earth Trilogy by N .K. Jemisin: I’m doing a Broken Earth buddy read with a group on GoodReads. To celebrate the release of book 3 in the trilogy we’re reading all of the. I started The Fifth Season last week and so far I find Jemisin’s writing style refreshing. I love fantasy but I haven’t  read much in the genre.  I’m looking forward to telling you more about it in my review this months.
  2. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay:  Another Fantasy Buddy Read. I’m looking forward to this one because I like the cover and the Title. Yes,  sometimes I read books because the covers are shiny. I’m reading it on Scribd but I’ll probably buy a hard copy if I find one. I like shiny books with pretty covers even if I didn’t like the actual story.
  3.  Birthing the Miraculous by Heidi Baker: Heidi Baker is one of my heroes. Her life story is inspirational. Born and Raised in Laguna Beach she left the western world to be a missionary in Mozambique where she is making a difference one person at a time.
  4. Prufrock: The latest issue of Prufrock is out. Stoked. Prufrock is a South African literary magazine. It showcases poetry, prose, and art by established and up and coming writers.

That’s my August TBR pile. What will you be reading?

​Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee – A Book Review

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I need a watchman to tell me this is what a man says but this is what he means, to draw a line down the middle and say here is this justice and there is that justice and make me understand the difference.”

From the moment I finished reading “To Kill a Mocking Bird,” I ached for another Harper Lee title to devour. So when I passed an Exclusive Books store and saw the bright orange covers decorating their  display, I had to have a copy – especially since my birthday was days away.
Initial Insights

By the author of “To Kill a Mocking Bird”, Go Set Watchmen chronicles Jean-Louis Finch’s retur

n to Maycomb to look after her aging father. But when she gets home, Jean-Louis, aka Scout, finds that her beloved town and the people she holds dear have changed. Or have they?

In “Go Set a Watchman” Scout discovers the racial tensions that have shaped her society, her family, and herself.

What I liked

Returning to Maycomb and “visiting” with Jean-Louis, Aunt Alexandra, and Atticus was a highlight. I could relate with Scout’s journey home and seeing everyone with a new perspective.

everyone again after all these year. I also enjoyed the moments when Scout reminisces about her youth, her rows with Cal, and annoyances with Jem. I guess it was more the nostalgia of it all than anything else.

Nostalgia aside, Chapters 18 and 19 were okay. In these chapters, Scout, who is angry that her father and fiancé are opposed to the civil rights movement, shares her vexation with her uncle, Jack. But instead of a sympathetic ear, he make her see the light. Uncle Jack spends two chapters explaining why conservative white Americans are “justified” in opposing the civil rights movement and its aftermath.

I don’t agree with any of his claims. Go Set a Watchman, and these chapters in particular, voice the other side of the civil rights discourse. We seldom hear, see, or read literature that shed light on why these movements are opposed. Although I don’t hold those views, I feel it’s important that such voices exist in literature.

What I didn’t like

“Go Set a Watchman” was disappointing, to say the least. I found it unnecessarily long, and there was no clear plot to speak of. It dragged. I didn’t appreciate how all the characters told Scout “You don’t understand”, or “Try looking at things from my perspective” – which is fine but it felt like everyone was telling Scout We are right you are wrong. Also after her conversation with her uncle Scout is so vexed that she wants to leave town. However, after her uncle slaps her she suddenly has an epiphany and everything makes sense. In two sentences she goes from “I’m leaving don’t stop me” to “It all makes sense now” which is unrealistic and disappointing. After that paragraph, I skipped to the last page and ended my misery.
Final Thoughts

I would recommend Go Set a Watchman as a collector’s piece. It’s Harper Lee’s original manuscript and thus has literary and sentimental value. The orange cover will also liven up any bookshelf. Having said that, I would not recommend reading it as fiction. Perhaps as a literary insight into an author’s refining process.

 

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Rating: 2/5

 

 

 

Buy this book | Read it on Scribd

About the Author

Harper Lee was born in 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama. She is the author of the acclaimed novels To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and numerous other literary awards and honors. She died on February 19, 2016.

What is your favourite historical fiction book?

WWW Wednesday – 19 July 2017

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme that is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. The “rules” are simple – answer the 3 questions below:

Delville Wood Memorial and Table Mountain

What are you currently reading?
I‘m keeping it local this month and reading some Afrikaans fiction. I’m reading Die Staat teen Anna Bruwer (The State vs. Anna Bruwer) by Anchien Troskie. I’ve been looking forward to it since its release date. I’m also reading Birthing the Miraculous by Heidi Baker.

What did you recently finish reading?

A friend recommend a book called Unmasking the Devil: Strategies to Defeat Eternity’s Greatest Enemy by John Ramirez. I also finished The Fellowship of the King by J.R.R Tolkien.

What do you think you’ll read next?
Next, I’ll probably read more Anchien Troskie titles. I found all her books on Scribd – and in Afrikaans. Then there’s the rest of LOTR and I’m reading The Color Purple with a group on GoodReads.

I’m also reviewing Failing Maths and My other Crimes by Thabo Jijana so I’ll be reading his collection of poems soon.

Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption: A Story from Different Seasons by Stephen King – Review

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“Remember that hope is a good thing, Red, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

I’ve watched The Shawshank Redemption so many times that I could probably recite the opening monolog verbatim. It’s one of my favourite movies. Yet in all the times I’ve seen it, I never noticed the graphic text that read “Based on the novel by Stephen King”. I stumbled across an e-Book version of the novella while doing  Google search and being a self-proclaimed book dragon, I had to read it.

Initial Insights

Written by Stephen King, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption chronicles the life of Andrew Dufresne, a banker, in Shawshank state prison between the years 1948 and 1975. Like the film, the book is narrated by Red, an inmate who has some clout in the prison. I must say, this was my introduction to the writings of Stephen King. And I loved it.

Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption is a story about hope, friendship, identity, and unwavering determination in the most hopeless of places – a prison.

What I liked

I enjoyed the narration. Much like Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eyes” and Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”, RHSR is told in the first person/observer. A fact King mentions often with phrases like “This is what I know…My guess is…”,  “I heard this from…sources”, or “This Andy told me himself” which allowed me to trust the narrator’s account. I knew he was telling me the story as he knew it. It also made it conversational – as if you and Red are on a bus trip across the country and he’s telling you about Andy Dufresne.

Also for the last 10 pages or so, Red basically tell the audience what he thinks happened after the major turning point in the story. I liked this because it has details that the film lacks and it gives the reader insights into Andy’s state of mind towards after years in prison and shows how well the two really knew each other.

King’s use of foreshadowing works well. If I read this novella without having watched the movie, I would have had a lot more “ah” moments. I like the novella’s ending better. Both end the same way but the details differ slightly and for me, the novella’s ending was much more sentimental and rounded off both characters nicely.

What I didn’t like

There were some scenes in the film that weren’t in the book and I missed them… To start, the scene where Andy locks himself in the warden’s office to play the opera vinyl over the speakers. That scene is classic and Red’s monologue unforgettable. I kind of wish King had that idea originally. Then Andy giving Red the harmonica, and finally, the conversation between Red and Andy about hope – “That’s a dangerous thing in a place like this”. So I missed those but only because I saw the film first.

Final thoughts

All in all, I give Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption five stars. It’s message of hope and perseverance stays will stay with me always.

 

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Rating: 5/5

 

 

Favourite quote

“It goes back to what I said about Andy wearing his freedom like an invisible coat, about how he never really developed a prison mentality. His eyes never got that dull look.”

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About the Author

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty worldwide bestsellers including his novel 11/22/63, which was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller as well as the Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers Association. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.