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Love: A Novel Paperback – January 4, 2005

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Editorial Reviews Review

The first page of Toni Morrison's novel Love is a soft introduction to a narrator who pulls you in with her version of a tale of the ocean-side community of Up Beach, a once popular ocean resort. Morrison introduces an enclave of people who react to one man--Bill Cosey--and to each other as they tell of his affect on generations of characters living in the seaside community. One clear truth here, told time and again, is how folks love and hate each other and the myriad ways it's manifested; these versions of humanity are seen in almost every line. Monsters and ghosts creep into young girls' dreams and around corners and then return to staid ladies' lives as they age and remember friendships and cold battles. Men and women--Heed, Romen, Junior, Christine, Celestial, and the rest of Morrison's cast--cry and sing out their weaknesses and strengths in rotating perspectives. Sandler, a Cosey employee, is a brilliant agent of Morrison's descriptions of human behavior, "Then, in a sudden shift of subject that children and heavy drinkers enjoy, 'My son, Billy was about your age. When he died, I mean.'" And Romen is allowed to play hero by saving a young girl from a brutal gang rape, while at the same time, he battles disgust like no superhuman would be caught dead feeling.

Though slim in pages, Morrison constructs Love with a precision and elegance that shows her characters' flaws and fears with brutal accuracy. Love may be less complex than others in the grand Morrison oeuvre, but not because Morrison performs literary hand-holding. Readers will experience in this smooth, sharp-eyed gem another instance of the Toni Morrison craftsmanship: she enters your mind, hangs a tale or two there, and leaves just as quietly as she came. --E. Brooke Gilbert --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

At the center of this haunting, slender eighth novel by Nobel winner Morrison is the late Bill Cosey-entrepreneur, patriarch, revered owner of the glorious Cosey Hotel and Resort (once "the best and best-known vacation spot for colored folk on the East Coast") and captivating ladies' man. When the novel opens, the resort has long been closed, and Cosey's mansion shelters only two feuding women, his widow, Heed, and his granddaughter, Christine. Then sly Junior Viviane, fresh out of "Reform, then Prison," answers the ad Heed placed for a companion and secretary, and sets the novel's present action-which is secondary to the rich past-in motion. "Rigid vipers," Vida Gibbons calls the Cosey women; formerly employed at the Cosey resort, Vida remembers only its grandeur and the benevolence of its owner, though her husband, Sandler, knew the darker side of Vida's idol. As Heed and Christine feud ("Like friendship, hatred needed more than physical intimacy: it wanted creativity and hard work to sustain itself"), Junior of the "sci-fi eyes" vigorously seduces Vida and Sandler's teenage grandson. In lyrical flashbacks, Morrison slowly, teasingly reveals the glories and horrors of the past-Cosey's suspicious death, the provenance of his money, the vicious fight over his coffin, his disputed will. Even more carefully, she unveils the women in Cosey's life: his daughter-in-law, May, whose fear that civil rights would destroy everything they had worked for drove her to kleptomania and insanity; May's daughter, Christine, who spent hard years away from the paradise of the hotel; impoverished Heed the Night Johnson, who became Cosey's very young "wifelet"; the mysterious "sporting woman" Celestial; and L, the wise and quiet former hotel chef, whose first-person narration weaves throughout the novel, summarizing and appraising lives and hearts. Morrison has crafted a gorgeous, stately novel whose mysteries are gradually unearthed, while Cosey, its axis, a man "ripped, like the rest of us, by wrath and love," remains deliberately in shadow, even as his family burns brightly, terribly around him.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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More from Toni Morrison
Nobel Prize-winner Toni Morrison is considered one of America's finest novelists for her profound and provocative works of fiction. Visit Amazon's Toni Morrison Page.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (January 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400078474
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400078479
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #36,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Toni Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. She is the author of several novels, including The Bluest Eye, Beloved (made into a major film), and Love. She has received the National Book Critics Circle Award and a Pulitzer Prize. She is the Robert F. Goheen Professor at Princeton University.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Foster Corbin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
No living author with the possible exception of Gabriel Garcia Marquez has better opening lines than Toni Morrison. For dead writers, she ranks with Melville, Camus and Tolstoy for that honor. LOVE begins with these words: "The women's legs are spread wide open, so I hum. Men grow irritable, but they know it's all for them. They relax. Standing by, unable to do anything but watch, is a trial, but I don't say a word." When Morrison finishes her story about 200 pages later, we have met a host of unforgettable characters, mostly women-- Heed, Christine, May, Junior, Vida, L, all who are obsessed with one Bill Cosey. I always marvel at the strength of Morrison's characters. Although they often face untold hardships, they seldom whine and often prevail. As usual, Morrison's plot is not linear but goes back and forth in time from the Civil Rights era to before and after that time. We get the story little by little and ultimately get the whole story, and what a story it is.
The book obviously is about love. Although there are other kinds of love here-- erotic love, lust masquerading as love-- the central love is that between two children, a love that was ruined by grownups. Years later as adults Heed and Christine finally get around to talking about their lost opportunities: "We could have been living our lives hand in hand instead of looking for Big Daddy everywhere."
There are memorable lines throughout the novel. Christine opines that "her last good chance for happiness [is] wrecked by the second oldest enemy in the world: another woman." Cosey says that "you can live with anything if you have what you can't live without.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Maurice Williams on November 4, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I can never really put my finger on it but whenever I've finished a Morrison novel, I'm left nursing a range of emotions from awe to despair. I'm left pondering what the book was all about, which forces me to exam more closely the themes, characters, and conflicts of the novel. The end result of this closer examination is always a better understanding of self and a richer appreciation for others.
In Morrison's latest novel, the author examines the consequences of perhaps the most sought after emotion in human existence. Love, and its various faces - hate lust, envy - is set during the 1950's in an ocean side town where Bill Cosey owns a resort that caters to middle and upper class blacks. Heed, Christine and May are the primary characters. L, a narrating spirit and former employee of the resort, provides background and insight into the other characters motives in a voice that resonates with truth and love. Heed and Christine share a pure unconditional love that bonds the two in friendship until Bill, Christine's grandfather, takes Heed as his bride. Bill, at age 52, purchases the 11-year-old Heed from her parents in hopes of obtaining a pure and virginal vessel to bear him a son to replace the one he lost to death. May, Christine's mother, sees Heed as a threat to the family's upper-class lifestyle and does everything in her power to disgrace the child bride. The love once shared by Heed and Christine is quickly turned into a life consuming hatred as May enlists Christine in her campaign against Heed.
Morrison unleashes, with grace and assurance, the literary skills she has cultivated over the course of her career. She is a master at telling a story from the inside out. Love, with wonderfully drawn characters and imagistic prose that nearly leaps from the page, is a splendid compliment to the author's literary canon. The novel is thin but deep. The only thing better than reading a Morrison novel is having a few people to discuss it with. Curl up and enjoy!
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By SATHYARAJ.V. on April 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Toni Morrison's new opus, Love is simultaneously a subtle meditation on the machinations of love and a poignant reflection about the epistemological reality of emotions and desires that informs humanity. Though the theme found its effective expression in Sula, it is with Love that Morrison reaches into new emotional depths and seriousness that establish her again as a mature artist. Like Paradise, Love is peopled "by scheming, bitter women and selfish, predatory men: women engaged in cartoon-violent catfights; men catting around and going to cathouses" as Michiko Kakutani observes in The New York Times. But, in spite of such a demoralizing circumambience Love at its core is a creative exercise to comprehend what "friendship and love" would mean as Morrison says, "when there's a cataclysm and conflict in belief."
Set in Atlantic coast, Love centers around the "commanding, beautiful"(36) but enigmatic Bill Cosey and the six women obstinately obsessed with him. Cosey, when alive was a legendary figure and the owner of deluxe hotel and resort where "people debated death in the cities, murder in Mississippi, and what they planned to do about it other than grieve and stare at their children" (35). As the novel begins in 1990's, Cosey (and his resort) is already dead but looms large controlling his granddaughter, Christine as well as his wife, Heed who live in a hate-fueled house to claim the property of Cosey. Amidst such a claustrophobic world comes Junior as a secretary to Heed to help her write the family history of Coseys. In fact, it is through Junior, an 18 years old girl from Correctional, that half of the mysterious life of Cosey is revealed.
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