The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Title: The Bluest Eye, Author: Toni MorrisonThe Bluest Eye. Finished 2-13-16, 3/5 stars, classic fiction, pub. 1970

Unabridged audio read by author, Toni Morrison. 6 hours 53 minutes.

Pecola Breedlove, a young black girl, prays every day for beauty. Mocked by other children for the dark skin, curly hair, and brown eyes that set her apart, she yearns for normalcy, for the blond hair and blue eyes that she believes will allow her to finally fit in. Yet as her dream grows more fervent, her life slowly starts to disintegrate in the face of adversity and strife. A powerful examination of our obsession with beauty and conformity, Toni Morrison’s virtuosic first novel asks powerful questions about race, class, and gender with the subtlety and grace that have always characterized her writing.  from Goodreads

I LOVED Beloved when I read it in 2012, so it was a given that I’d read more Morrison for my Classics Club challenge. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel much of a connection to this book.  As I’ve spent some time reading other reviews and then looking at my original review for Beloved I’m taking a guess that it was listening to it rather than reading it that lessened my enjoyment.  I love Morrison’s magical writing, but I’m not sure I got that same magic while listening to her narration.  My next Morrison book (and there will be more, she has a gift) will be paper, not audio.  Here’s a sample…

You looked at them and wondered why they were so ugly; you looked closely and could not find the source. Then you realized that it came from conviction, their conviction. It was as though some mysterious all-knowing master had given each one a cloak of ugliness to wear, and they had each accepted it without question…. And they took the ugliness in their hands, threw it as a mantle over them, and went about the world with it. 

She is talking about the Breedlove family, the youngest Pecola, is the one who wants to replace her brown eyes with blue so that the world may find her pretty and worthy of notice.  Hers is a heartbreaking story of neglect, abuse, and incest.  The varying points of view both worked and didn’t.  I loved her friend Claudia’s narration, she was my favorite character, but it’s also true that Claudia, although the same age as Pecola, had loving support.  There was also some backstory for Pecola’s parents, that was intended to provoke some sympathy, but just didn’t do it for me.  I liked that it was set near my neck of the woods and where Morrison was born in Lorain, Ohio.

This is a well-written story about race in 1960’s America from the perspective of young, pre-teen black girls.  I own a paperback and would love to read it and see if my perception of the novel changes. I mean this is Morrison’s debut novel and led her to a world of love from readers and critics alike, so I know that I’m the outlier here.

This was my 10th selection for the Classics Club.