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.



I’m finally joining the Classics Club and the Buckeyes Win!!

I’ve eyed this challenge for years, but have always had enough sense to resist, but NO MORE!  I’m feeling confident and pumped up after my Ohio State Buckeyes kicked butt last night and beat #1 Alabama.  Sorry, still riding a little high 🙂

The rules are that I have to read 50 classics in 5 years time.  I have to make a list (this is often where I’ve stalled out in the past) and to do this I have to define what classic means for me.  I think a classic is something that stands the test of time and has something to say.  I will use an arbitrary number of 25 years, so anything before 1990 (just typing that makes me feel old). The list can be changed as the years go on, but I think I’ll start with the classics that are sitting on my shelves right now, many of them for years. Take a look and tell me which one I should read first.

1. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

2. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

3. Washington Square by Henry James

4. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

5. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

6. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

7. Ada by Vladimir Nabokov

8. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome

9. Night by Elie Wiesel

10. Up From Slavery by Booker T Washington

11. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

12. Cat’s Cradle or Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut

13. Aesop’s Fables

14. Good as Gold by Joseph Heller

15. Lady Chatterly’s Lover or Women in Love by DH Lawrence

16. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

17. Fear of Flying by Erica Jong

18. Moonstone or The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

19. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

20. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

21. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

22. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

23. 1984 by George Orwell

24. Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone by James Baldwin

25. Babbit by Sinclair Lewis

25. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

26. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert m Pirsig

27. The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

28. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain

29. Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart

30. The Chosen by Chaim Potok

31. Christy by Catherine Marshall

32. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

33. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

34. Roll of Thunder Hear, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor

35. Eva Luna by Isabel Allende

36. Gather Together in My Name by Maya Angelou

37. Villette by Charlotte Bronte

38. Oliver Twist or Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

39. The War of the Worlds by HG Wells

40. The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe

41. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann

42. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

43. The Two Towers by JRR Tolkien

44. Sophie’s Choice by William Styron

45. Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt

46. 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

47. The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

48. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

49. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

50. The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer


Free Books for September

In my ongoing quest to keep books moving out and not just in I give away a few books each month.  Leave a comment, tell me which book you want and I’ll get the book to you for FREE either by mail or personally if I’ll see you soon.  The first one to request each book wins.  Once you’ve ‘won’ the book I can get your shipping address if I need it.  Also, you can come back and get a free book every month if you want.  These have all been read a time or two.

1. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.  Mass market classic.  It’s an old copy (1983) but in good shape.  B&N review here.  for Sarah E

2. Angel Mine by Sherryl Woods.  Mass market romance.  Published in 2000.  B&N review here.  for Gautami

3. The Awakening by Kate Chopin.  Trade paperback classic.  This edition published in 1993 is in great condition.  My review here.  for Misha

4. Contemporary Latin American Short Stories. This trade paperback was published in 1996.  Never been read.  B&N review here.  for Carol M

Happy Reading!

The Awakening, by Kate Chopin

The Awakening by Kate Chopin: Book CoverFinished 12-14-09, rating 4.5/5, fiction, pub. 1899

In short, Mrs. Pontellier was not  a mother-woman.  The mother-women seemed to prevail that summer at Grand Isle.  It was easy to know them, fluttering about with extended protecting wings when any harm, real or imaginary, threatened their precious brood.  They were women who idolized their children, worshiped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy priviledge to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels

Chapter IV

Edna Pontellier is a young woman living in New Orleans in the late 1880’s,  Her life, like that of most ladies at that time, revolves around her husband, children, and social calls.  Then one summer while she and her family were on Grand Isle, she becomes enamoured with Robert Lebrun, who returns the interest in kind.  As Edna feels propriety fall away, her new way of looking at her life makes her a changed woman and unhappy.  Edna is a woman who is stuck in a box and she longs to break free.

This is a re-read for me.  I read it in college and loved it.  It’s on my Top 100 list and it will likely be there for quite some time.  There is a profound beauty in the writing and with Edna’s awakening that left much for thought.  There were passages that moved me, made me think, and defined the times.  I cannot get into too much discussion without ruining the end, but I would recommend this book as a thoughtful classic. 

Kate Chopin was very sensitive to criticism and the harshness of her detractors over this book forced her to stop writing altogether.  This was her last novel and it is a shame she never got the recognition she deserved when she was alive.  People seem to think you need to agree with Edna’s decisions to appreciate the book.  I think that is missing the point.  But that’s just me.

I chose to read this as part of a book group that Em at The Many Thoughts of a Reader is hosting.  Feel free to stop by her blog as she and others discuss it.  I think I may be the only one who loves it 🙂

This book was from my personal library.

You will choose 50 of the books I will read next year.  If you help me you could win a $20 gift card to Barnes & Noble.  Go here to vote. (Right now the top vote getter is A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving)

Book Giveaway – Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

HB 6

Today’s free book is a like-new mass market of Leaves of Grass.  Here’s the synopsis of this classic-

Whitman is today regarded as America’s Homer or Dante, and his work the touchstone for literary originality in the New World. In Leaves of Grass, he abandoned the rules of traditional poetry – breaking the standard metered line, discarding the obligatory rhyming scheme, and using the vernacular. Emily Dickinson condemned his sexual and physiological allusions as ‘disgraceful’, but Emerson saw the book as the ‘most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed’. A century later it is his judgment of this autobiographical vision of the vigor of the American nation that has proved the more enduring.

To enter to win leave a comment with your email address. 

To earn one extra entry you can post this on Twitter or post it on your blog.  Leave me a separate comment telling me you did.

Open internationally.  Winner will be picked on October 11th.

Sense & Sensibility, by Jane Austen

Product DetailsFinished audio 7-23-09, rating 4/5, fiction, pub. 1813

This audio version was read by Wanda McCaddon

This is my first Jane Austen book, so I thought I would start with listening an audio first.  I am glad that I did.  I saw the 1995  movie soon after it came out and once I started listening the characters came to life in my mind, as the cast of the movie.  The combination was Cliff’s Notes for the Austen virgin and I thought a great way to start my Austen reading.  Now that I’ve finished the book and watched the movie again in my imagination I plan on watching the actual movie this week.

The Dashwoods have just lost the head of the family and his second family is mistreated by the heir and left with little money and few prospects.  Thanks to the generosity of a cousin they are welcomed to a small house in Devonshire and the four women make a new life with new friends. 

Elinor and Marianne are sisters that share a close relationship, but different temperaments.  Marianne is full of fancy and passion and Elinor is full of good judgement and common sense.  They both fall for two very different men, but suffer the same fate in their attraction. 

As you can see, I took the quiz to find out which Austen character I am and Elinor was the winner.  After reading the book I can see where the result came from, but think perhaps I am a bit more direct than Elinor.  I liked both sisters, but there were times when both of them drove me a little crazy.

I like the book, but I can’t give it more than 4 stars because there are so many people to dislike.  Some got their comeuppance, but some didn’t and I wanted some karma for a few of the characters.

I look forward to reading an actual Austen book soon.

Tess of the d’Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy

Tess of the d'Urbervilles (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) by Hardy Hardy: Book CoverFinished audio 5-18-09, rating 4/5, fiction classic, pub. 1891

Tess Derbyfield is living with her impoverished family in southwestern England in the 1800’s when her family finds out they are related to an old and noble line, the d’Urbervilles.  Her parents are eager to claim kinship to the closest d’Urberville they know and send the beautiful Tess to make an introduction as family.  Once there Tess is seduced by the cad Alec d’Urberville and becomes pregnant.  She races back home and gives birth to a son she names Sorrow.

After the death of Sorrow Tess must find work to support herself and her family and she finds work at a dairy farm.  It is at the farm that she meets Angel Clare, who comes from a respected religious family.  The sparks fly and Tess is confronted with the choice of telling Angel about the baby or letting him continue to believe that she is a virgin.  Her mother tells her to keep the secret and Tess tries, but she is at heart an honest soul.

Tess was pure of faith and heart, but she was so mistreated by everyone she came in contact with, her family included, that she lost that innocence.  She is the shining example of the hypocrisy of the day.  Women had so few options and I applauded her effort to remain virtuous of spirit.  She is a tragic figure that represents Victorian era.

This classic is a love story that runs the gamut of emotions.  I knew nothing of this book when I checked the cds out of the library (14.5 hours unabridged) and loved the language and tone of  the book.  I was also shocked by many of the things that happened.  I don’t want to spoil anything for you here, but let me say that I am happy to be living in 2009 and not in the 1800’s, especially not as a poor girl with a sad family. 

It is not perfect, but the things that bothered me most were aspects of the time period, not the writing or the story itself.  I recommend this tragedy as one that will touch your heart.

The Time Machine, H.G. Wells

Cover ImageFinished 1-3-09, rating 4/5, fiction, pub. 1898

” I grieved to think how brief the dream of the human intellect had been.  It had committed suicide.  It had set itself steadfastly towards comfort and ease, a balanced society with security and permanency as its watchword, it has attained its hopes-to come to this at last…There is no intelligence where there is no change and no need of change.  Only those animals partake of intelligence that have to meet a huge variety of needs and dangers.”   Chapter 10

The Time Traveller built a time machine that can travel back to the past or race to the future, much to the skepticism of his friends.  They did not believe him even after one night he came home, disheveled and heartbroken, and told them mankind’s fate 800.000 years in the future.

The Time Traveller had met and been accepted by the carefree and loving Eloi, who spent their days dancing and laughing.  He rescued one from drowning, Weena, and they became companions.  He discovered his machine was moved and in his searching found another people, the Morlocks, who lived under ground and were as dark as the Eloi were light.

The Time Traveller was there eight days and his views changed daily, allowing Wells to expound on his own world view and the state of the human condition.  The story, while being interesting, also had real depth. 

I am surprised at how well this novel has aged.  This is the original time travel book and the sheer imagination and possibilities are impressive.  It is a short classic, well worth the time and suitable for all ages, although the vocabulary could be challenging for younger readers.

Alternate Titles

Thanks for playing!  I’ve got a new one coming soon 🙂

Here’s how to play…Identify the correct title of these classics. Leave a comment with the # and the answer and I’ll cross it off the list. No Googling, that’s cheating and no fun! If you know them all, please don’t guess every one, maybe five max?

Example-The Hearing and the Rage is really The Sound and the Fury by Faulkner

1. Creature Cropland  Jason, Animal Farm by Orwell

2. Along the Avenue Golda, On the Road by Kerouac

3. The Orb Also Climbs Jill, The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway

4. The Era of Virtuousness Golda, The Age of Innocence by Wharton

5. The Craft of Conflict  Jill, The Art of War by Sun-Tzu

6. Fearless Fresh Cosmos Janet, Brave New World by Huxley

7. Demise of a Clerk, Jason, Death of a Salesman by Miller

8. In Frigid Kin  Janet, In Cold Blood by Capote

9. The Saintly Farce Mark, The Divine Comedy by Dante

10. Departed with the Draft Janet, Gone With the Wind by Mitchell


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