Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Sula by Toni Morrison

Sula by Toni Morrison

Books Read: 34
Completion Date: February, 2007
Publication Year: 2002 (reprint)
Pages: 192
Purchased for University in 2007

Toni Morrison's first novel, The Bluest Eye (1970), was acclaimed as the work of an important talent, written--as John Leonard said in The New York Times--in a prose "so precise, so faithful to speech and so charged with pain and wonder that the novel becomes poetry."

Her new novel has the same power, the same beauty.

At its center--a friendship between two women, a friendship whose intensity first sustains, then injures. Sula and Nel--both black, both smart, both poor, raised in a small Ohio town--meet when they are twelve, wishbone thin and dreaming of princes.

Through their girlhood years they share everything--perceptions, judgments, yearnings, secrets, even crime--until Sula gets out, out of the Bottom, the hilltop neighborhood where beneath the sporting life of the men hanging around the place in headrags and soft felt hats there hides a fierce resentment at failed crops, lost jobs, thieving insurance men, bug-ridden flour...at the invisible line that cannot be overstepped.

Sula leaps it and roams the cities of America for ten years. Then she returns to the town, to her friend. But Nel is a wife now, settled with her man and her three children. She belongs. She accommodates to the Bottom, where you avoid the hand of God by getting in it, by staying upright, helping out at church suppers, asking after folks--where you deal with evil by surviving it.

Not Sula. As willing to feel pain as to give pain, she can never accommodate. Nel can't understand her any more, and the others never did. Sula scares them. Mention her now, and they recall that she put her grandma in an old folks' home (the old lady who let a train take her leg for the insurance)...that a child drowned in the river years ago...that there was a plague of robins when she first returned...

In clear, dark, resonant language, Toni Morrison brilliantly evokes not only a bond between two lives, but the harsh, loveless, ultimately mad world in which that bond is destroyed, the world of the Bottom and its people, through forty years, up to the time of their bewildered realization that even more than they feared Sula, their pariah, they needed her.
This is one of those authors that everyone loves, her books have won the Noble Prize, and I just find myself, well, unfulfilled when I read her. I have read another book by her, and I cannot even remember the title anymore. She is an author that I would love to say that I like because she really does write on good subject matters that should be interesting, but she always falls flat for me. I always planned to read her again after my first attempt to see if it was just the book choice, and I had to read this one for school, so it worked out. I still do not like her.

This book is about many things, most of all the friendship between Sula and Nel, the treatment of Black people in this time period, and the superstitious nature of people. There are a lot of interesting instances in this book, a lot of scenes where I laughed or was surprised, but overall, I just could not get into this book. It also talks about how hard it was to be a single woman at this time, capturing it with the crazy (to us) methods that one woman went to in order to feed her children.

It really is a short book, only 192 pages, and in the course of there is love, life, laughter, and death. And, I am afraid that it is not very fresh in my memory anymore, so that is all I am going to say.


This is the second time I have read this author.

Authors Gender:
Female: 27
Males: 7


  1. I've only read one Toni Morrison book and I didn't like it at all. I haven't been inspired to pick any others up since that one!

  2. Sula is one of my challenge books to read this year. I've heard a lot of mixed reviews about it. I personally thought her book, The Bluest Eye, was very good, but it's one of those that people either like or dislike.

  3. I am so excited to see you have got a copy of Horatio Lyle in your library. I am massively fond of that book and recommend it ( and its sequel ) to everyone !

  4. Another Toni Morrison novel that really touches my emotion. It tells the story of two women, one embraces a conventional way of life while the other is engross with a complete opposite. Their future awaits an act of betrayal that will force them to reevaluate each other and their own lives, living in the community of what they used to say “The Bottom Citizens” – too bad that is. But there is a magic hidden within the pages of this book and its for your mind to understand the language only Morrison can write in.

  5. I know how you feel: like something's missing, and yet I can't put my finger on it. I have a friend who doesn't like her writing either.


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