The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison

Story - or maybe better described as a series of vignettes - based around some black families in the mid-western US in the 1930s-1950s(?). The narration switches between a (not quite) omniscient narrator, and sections written by one of the characters (either as a child or as a grown-up). The main character is Pecola, a girl who believes that she will be beautiful only by having blue eyes.

I took a long time getting through this audiobook for one reason or another (it was over the Christmas period and so there were quite a few breaks) and this meant I had trouble getting into it. The fact that perspective changed between characters and time periods also made it difficult to latch on to the "story". There was some nice writing, and I enjoyed many of the descriptions, but it was sometimes hard to work out what was meant to be going on, and quite often my attention drifted and I found myself listening to a section where the context had changed and we were talking about characters who I didn't recognise.

There were some scenes in the book which stayed with me - Cholly looking for his father;the section where the boy entices a girl back to his house and then kills the cat (not quite as distressing as the cat in The Light Years but reminded me of it); and Cholly's rape of his daughter. And when someone turns up and promises the girls a penny, then using sleight of hand makes it disappear. They search for it: "if happiness is anticipation with certainty, we were happy"

This is evidently a "significant" novel, having first been published in the '70s, and the edition I had contained an afterword by Morrison explaining how she wrote the story. This was pretty interesting (a bit like David Lodge's stuff) and made me wish I'd been paying more attention - it brings it home to you how much effort goes into writing a book. But there wasn't half a lot you might miss as a casual reader (which I probably was). As well as this, the book is very much about a certain time and place, which is not mine.

So it was an interesting read, and she can definitely write, but I don't think I got as much out of it as I should. Would try more by Toni Morrison though.

Completed : 30-Dec-2009 (audiobook)

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