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.

 

 

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

The Snow ChildThe Snow Child. Finished 4-21-15, rating 4.25/5, fiction, pub. 2012

Unabridged audio read by Debra Monk.  10.75 hours.

Finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart–he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm, she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning, the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them. from Goodreads

Whenever I read books set in Alaska, I become immersed in the barren, yet lush and beautiful landscape and this was no different.  Ivey’s words describing Alaska were mesmerizing.  In the beginning, when Mabel and Jack were first learning their way in the new, wild country, the often depressing tone of the story was mirrored by the hard nature of Alaska and I was drawn in.  As the story moved from dark to light, so did the reality of Alaska’s land.

The story was based on a Russian folk tale of the snow child but I wasn’t familiar with it.  This skittish girl who Jack and Mabel, who were still longing for children in middle age, saw more and more frequently was real, or maybe she wasn’t.  In the end, did it matter?

I loved the struggle of living off the land and their outspoken neighbor Esther.  I also loved how the words drew such vivid pictures in my mind that I can still see Alaska in my mind over a week after finishing the book.  The writing wasn’t sparse, but emotions and intentions were described in such a simple way that the story seemed somewhat magical.

Was she a snow child or just a girl?  That’s what kept me reading when the story dragged and the ending was both a surprise and expected.  Not bad for a debut novel, I’d say!

Recommended for anyone looking for something a little different.

This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection by Carol Burnett

This Time Together by Carol Burnett: CD Audiobook CoverFinished unabridged audio 9-1-10, rating 4.5/5, memoir, pub. 2010

Narrated by Carol Burnett

I love Carol Burnett.  I loved her variety show, The Carol Burnett Show.  The woman is funny and sincere and real.  This memoir covers the time she was getting started in show business.  She talks about meeting Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant, two of my faves, and how starstruck she was.  She had an elevator encounter with John Steinbeck which I loved. 

She talks about her time in New York, living with other girls and working on Broadway.  I loved hearing about how she got her own show started, personal stories about castmates, and the honest confessions, like when she got her chin.  She touches on her three marriages and the death of her daughter, Carrie, which give this memoir depth.  Moving from Los Angeles to New York and back again showcase the fortunate life of this comedienne.

These stories of her life are fun to listen to and I must recommend the audio version since she reads the book herself.  It made me want to buy her old shows from the infomercials I always see on tv.  If you are a fan this is a must read.

I checked this audio book out of the library.

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

Cover ImageFinished audio 5-22-08, rating 3.5/5, fiction, originally published 1953

 I listened to the book read by the author as I always try to do if possible, but this time I think it was a distraction.  Bradbury’s voice did not fit the way I was picturing in my mind.  The one saving grace was the last disc that was an interview with Bradbury.

The book is set in a cold, distant future where fireman start fires instead of putting them out.  The people are controlled by a government that wants its citizens to live blindly and do do as they are told.  Guy Montag, a fireman, meets his neighbor, Clarisse, and she begins his enlightenment with one question.  “Are you really happy?”  Clarisse opens his eyes to the past when books and ideas meant something and how awful Montag’s current job of burning books was.  Montag was shocked, but intrigued and begins his journey by stealing and reading the Bible.

I loved the idea of the book.  The theme of government slowly stripping of rights until there is no free thought is a timely one.  The melancholy future without books made me look at my overflowing bookcases with extra love 🙂

If you have read the book, I still recommend going to the library & checking out the cd’s read by Bradbury and listening to the last disc.  He gives much insight to the book and characters, but it’s much more than that.  His thoughts on writing were interesting.  ”

“You don’t want to know what you’re doing.  You must never know what you’re doing.” 

Maybe my favorite story was about his not being able to afford college.  From the ages 18-28, Bradbury spent 2 or 3 days every week in the library educating himself.  He said at 28 he graduated himself from the library.  His lenghthy interview was charming and candid.

Other reviews-

Heather @ Book Addiction