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Song of Solomon
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126 of 135 people found the following review helpful
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With passion and a voice that sings with beautiful detail and magic, Toni Morrison's third novel, published in 1977, is a powerful tale that follows the lives of a black family and their friends living in a Michigan city. In 1931, Macon Dead III, later nicknamed Milkman, is prematurely brought into the world, the first black child born in Mercy Hospital, just after his mother witnesses the brief flight of a man determined to fly from the cupola of the hospital. Although the novel revolves around Milkman, the stories spun out from him embrace a wide variety of characters and experiences. Morrison explores the lasting stamp of slavery through the name of Macon Dead; the intimate culture of women through Pilate, Reba, and Hagar; the hunger for property and respectability through Milkman's father; the idea of one's "people" through those in the South who have not forgotten connections; the violence of civil rights through Guitar; and many more issues facing blacks of the times and today. Despite the resonance of history, this novel is ultimately about its people and their eagerly lived lives. Morrison plunges her readers into their hearts with a humanity and skill too few novelists possess. The result is a remarkably emotional and intelligent story that will stay with you for a long time.
Readers should not be intimidated by Morrison's Nobel Prize Winner status, as this novel, like most of her others, is written in startling but accessible language. You don't need an advanced degree (or even a specific race or gender) to slip into her magical prose. Her characters are real and fully realized, and feel like friends, even when you might want to shake them to their senses. Although some readers will be puzzled by the end, wanting perhaps the next sentence that explains it all, Morrison has included by her omission the real meaning of her book. Visit with it for a few moments before closing the cover.
I highly recommend this book for a wide range of readers, from high school students to adults. Even though it was written in the 1970's, its themes and characters still have relevance today. Morrison is one of the world's literary gifts, and should not be missed. THE SONG OF SOLOMON is one of her best novels.
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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
this book is not for a reader who wants a simple plot or who is not willing to concentrate on the text and think about it on numerous levels. in fact, it may even be a dangerous book for people like that. i have heard morrison called a racist, and i have heard her called a degrader of her own race, and unfortunately this is because her work lacks the inane quality of so many other works today that fit so easily into simple categories. so many readers today want works that reinforce their own sense of themselves, that make broad statements that have already been made, such as 'racism is bad,' and that consequently make them feel good by presenting plots that include them on the side of right. this author's work is hardly aimed at such generic ideals. instead, morrison weaves tales that destroy the very notion of racial superiority, setting up oppositions that not only show in detail the horrors of white discimination, but also the devestating effects of internal attempts by black groups or individuals at creating a heirarchy of their own where they might be superior to other blacks. this novel is about the lunacy of existing through stereotypical perceptions, and more importantly the horrific consequences of hate from all sides and the redeeming qualities of love from all sides. it is about so much more, but at its simplest level, it is about being american. this book is not for everyone, but if you're willing to think extremely hard about each page, and not afraid to accept that something of yourself, no matter what your race or gender may be, is almost certainly going to be indicted within it, by all means devour this incredibly beautiful and powerful story with no self-illusions, because it will make you a better person to have done it. this is toni morrison's masterpiece, and quite simply one of the greatest american novels of the 20th century.
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80 of 87 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
I've read SOS going on four or five times now, floored, awestruck, enraptured each time, every twist and turn a new surprise arrives. Milkman is a wonderful archetype for a Black man searching for what he can claim as his own. His mind, his body, his sex, money? What is his and not tainted by the past, by racism, by internal family feuding? This is what I call a "Patience Book", you have to sit with it the way you would sit with a child on a Sunday afternoon. Patience. You have to breathe in rhythm with this book. Morrison is one of those few writers that it's silly to ask all of your questions of even after you finish the book. Pick it right back up and breathe, savor each page, have patience. It is not an easy read for it is literature and you are reading, truly reading. Not surfing through pulp fiction knwoing that the hero lives, the heroine is saved and everybody sleeps well on the last page. Uh uh. Patience. What else but patience could you use to understand Magdalene, Pilate, Corinthians? My all time, all time, all time favorite literary scene that chills me, tears me up, knocks me around hard and then uplifts me: Pilate at the funeral. "That was my baby, That's my baby, AND SHE WAS LOVED!"
Honey, welcome to real African American literature, impossible to translate to film for this is patience reading. Patience, free at last, free at last!
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57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
"Song of Solomon" is the third book I've read of Toni Morrison. The prose is beautiful, subtle and unique. She is the winner of both the Pulitzer and the Nobel Prize. Read this novel, and you will understand why!
From the fantastic opening scene - when Robert Smith, the insurance collector, is about to "fly" from the top of a building, some forty, fifty people gathered on the ground to watch. One of them, a woman is standing there, singing, and another woman entering labor - to the ending, this book held my full attention. I just could not put this book down!
In telling this beautiful story, Morrison cleverly mix together elements of magic, myth, and folklore. The style of the book reminds me of the book "One hundred years of Solitude" by Gabriel García Márquez. Both novels share many similarities, and they are books which you have to "think" while reading them.
The characters in "Song of Solomon" are each very well developed. It is almost as if you know them all personally and one cannot help but to care deeply for them all. This is the only book I have read by Toni Morrison that features a male lead. I wouldn't know, but based on the opinion of other reviewers on Amazon.com Morrison masters the task of "being male" perfectly well.
"Song of Solomon" is considered to be Toni Morrison's masterpiece, and the novel is one of my all-time favorites. If you read only one novel by Toni Morrison, it should be this one!
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2005
Format: Paperback
Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon captures the reader with its first sentence. While a beautifully written story, it is one with which the reader must be prepared to invest some time. Morrison makes her reader dig past the literal meaning to find the figurative because the novel is about much more than what the surface shows. Her prose contains layered meanings that at times can be difficult to grasp due to Morrison's intricate phrasing. Song of Solomon, written in 1977, depicts a divided African American family living in northern Michigan during the 1930's. As with many of her novels, Song of Solomon hits at heavy themes. Within the novel Morrison touches on issues including race, gender, geography, age, the importance of family origins, and the value of human life. With this novel Morrison's aim was to make the reader think about the value and worth of another person's life.

The novel begins outside of a residential hospital, with a man preparing to jump off the building, and women struggling to give birth on the steps below. "The next day a colored baby was born inside Mercy for the first time" (9), this colored child is the main character Macon Dead, nicknamed Milkman. Next, the reader meets the other characters in the novel, including Milkman's mother, father, sisters, aunt, and his close friend Guitar. Milkman's relationship with each of this character is essential to shaping the novel's themes. Although the novel is centered on Milkman, his story is created by the lives of those around him. Through out the novel Milkman struggles to find meaning in his life. He says, "Everybody wants something from me, you know what I mean?...Something they think I got. I don't know what it is-I mean what it is they really want" (222). Milkman's effort to find that `something' takes him in many directions, the most important of these being a journey, in an effort to prove himself in the eyes of his friend and father, in search of stolen gold. What began as lust for money and power turns into something much more for Milkman. On this particular journey he is forced to re-evaluate his life, "They were troublesome thoughts, but they wouldn't go away...his self--the cocoon that was "personality"-gave way...so the thoughts came, unobstructed" (277). The end of this journey brings understanding, and change not only to Milkman, but to all those connected to him. The story is a skillful blend of characters and plot developments that form a complex tale of human discovery which takes the reader from birth to death, from north to south, and from emptiness to fulfillment.

The beauty and power of Morrison's writing is what makes this novel so effective. Morrison's descriptive words create vivid imagery and strong themes; the most prevalent of these is the importance of family, and the value of life. Morrison presents these themes amidst a setting displayed in colorful and descriptive language. Scenes such as the first, impact the reader because of the intensity of the words. Instead of using simple sentences such as "the women dropped her basket and spilled the contents," Morrison uses phrases such as "she dropped her covered peck basket, spilling red velvet rose petals. The wind blew them about, up down and into small mounds of snow." The wording is so detailed that the reader can picture vibrant red roses swirling in the air, drifting on to the pristine snow. The difference is the effect of the language; Morrison's vivid prose makes the story come alive inside the reader's mind.

The themes of this novel are brought out before the story even begins. On the two pages prior to Part One of the novel, Morrison has her dedication. On one page, it simply reads "Daddy," on the other it reads, "The fathers may soar/ And the children may know their names." These two pages show the set up for the importance of kin and connections. Milkman's search for meaning in his life leads him to his family roots, to "his people." His ability to find worth in himself comes from this comprehension that his father, and his father's father, all that came before him had worth, had importance in their lives. This knowledge helps him understand and respect not only those around him, but ultimately himself. The characters that Morrison created affect the reader because they are realistic. They love, they hate, they hurt, and most importantly, they have flaws. The humanity of the characters is shown in characters such as Pilate, when she lies dying and says, "I wish I'd a knowed more people. I would have loved all. If I'd a knowed more, I would a loved more" (336). Morrison's characters force a reader to look at the strength and fragilities of human nature that is inherent in everyone, regardless of race, gender, or age.

Although a challenging read Song of Solomon is a novel that I would recommend to anyone willing to invest the time. A surface read will not suffice for the complexity of Morrison's prose. The thematic goal of this novel is achieved because of Morrison's intricate style. Her language throughout the novel forces a reader to take an active role in fully understanding the significance of her words. However, because of this the novel is more rewarding for the reader. Toni Morrison's writing is layered with meaning, and exceptional in its ability to cause emotions in the reader. The truthfulness of the characters, and the beauty and depth of the story, makes it one well worth the read.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is my third of Toni Morrison's novels (SULA and JAZZ are both magnificent; I will dive into PARADISE probably next), and I can honestly say that I can't imagine anything surpassing it on any number of levels in print. I never thought I would experience a novel whose scope, power, subject matter, ruminations on the art and consequences of being human and evident mastery of style could ever come close to Ellison's INVISIBLE MAN; Morrison has done it in SONG OF SOLOMON. She has in fact equalled it, if not surpassed it.
Toni Morrison's way of creating this infinitely and immaculately detailed tableau of multi-dimensional characters in a number of multi-dimensional communities is already legendary. (I am almost afraid to think it may have been surpassed in later novels.) Yet with SONG OF SOLOMON it all gravitates sublimely around what for me is the central theme of the book, made evident by the drama of its protagonist, the young "Macon Dead", and his affair with a troubled woman and his secretive family. The theme is so powerful that one cannot hear it set to her lyricism without it breaking your heart: without a psycho-mythic/spiritual connection with one's roots- one's ancestors and ancestral stories- and the otherwise inexplicable and incomparable courage in the individual heart that only comes from it, it is altogether impossible to experience, give or submit to uncondidtional love. All of the characters express this fundamental truth in ways that are shocking, amusing, appalling, enlightening, saddening, frightening, and ennobling- often simultaneously. Toni successfully, perhaps unlike any writer before her, connects the knowledge and embracing of one's ancestral past with the self-knowledge of the architecture of one's individual soul, and the glory of human love, in such a way as to prove the three are synonymous. Thus without one, the others cannot by definition truly exist. Such a message in today's times could only be told by Toni, whose craft as a writer has transcended mastery.
I don't ever remember being so moved by a novel. When I was done, I knew myself better than I ever thought I could... and I wanted to fly.
"If I'd knowed more, I would have loved more." Toni Morrison, SONG OF SOLOMON
This book is a gift unlike any other.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on October 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
Macon Dead the III was given the nickname "Milkman" when his mother was caught breastfeeding him well into his toddler years. Milkman is a self-absorbed arrogant man living off his fathers money and his grandfathers name. Completely oblivious to his surroundings, Milkman treats the women in his family like strangers. It wasn't until he meets his Aunt Pilate that he shows emotion and gratitude towards a family member. After hearing Pilate's stories of a family long lost, Milkman sparks a greedy interest to the family inheritance. In turn, he is spun into a journey that would teach him about family ties, commitment and love.
The Story of family connections when we are well past the halfway point and the reader may struggle through the sub-plots. It is not until the very end that the reader can tie the beginning to the overall story. But stick with it, the stories and lessons they teach are well worth the read.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
If you are a fan of Toni Morrison, this is your definitive book. Otherwise, you may be turned off by its broken time and biblical allusions. Either way, do not worry, for everyone can learn to appreciate Morrison's masterpiece of lyrical prose. This novel entails Milkman's journey from fractured family pride to a greedy hunt for hidden gold. Its opening may seem mysterious and inscrutable, but if the reader continues his pursuit he will find a great payoff. Morrison's works require close reading and a fair memory. I recommend reading as much as possible of her books in one sitting and while clear- and open-minded. One of the joys of taking in her poetic words lies in the shaping of the works' characters. In 'Song of Solomon,' we watch Milkman from his very infancy, learn the origins of his nickname, and are forced to wonder what has happened to him in the end. Morrison chronicles his troubled family's history, once again even delving into how the family mistakenly acquired their last name: 'Dead.' My only words of encouragement: stay focused and pay attention and appreciate what Toni Morrison does for American literature with each of her creations and the boundless effects of their words.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on May 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
The Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison is one of my favorite books despite the extra effort needed to understand the hidden messages. The book grabs the readers from the first page where a Black man believes he could "fly off" to freedom sacrificing his life, while a strange woman is singing in the background. The next day the protagonist, Milkman, comes into life. This intriguing story holds the struggle between Whites and Blacks, and the search for identity and family root. I recommend this book to any teenagers and adults who are seeking for a deep reading.

The repeated themes presented in this book portray the importance of family. Milkman is the youngest and the only male child between Ruth and Macon. He is described as a selfish and egotistical man. When he sees a green sack hanging on Pilate's door, he believes its gold that Pilate and Macon found. However, to his disappointment, it held pieces of bones; Milkman realizes the gold could be left where it was found initiating the journey of Milkman. It begins as ajourney to seek gold, but later ends up as a journey to seek his family root and his own identity. One of the obvious themes of postmodernism in this book is deconstruction, seeking criteria of identity and truth. Some other obvious themes are struggle between two classes and sacrificing for one's desire.

Throughout this journey, Milkman visits three main places: Dansville, Virginia, and Sharlimar. These places begin to aid Milkman by guiding him to his hidden history about his family. How his family got the name Dead, who his great-grandfather is, and whose bones are in Pilate's green sack are some of the things Milkman finds out. He figures out that his great-grandfather Solomon is a famous slave who literally flew off the ground to Africa for freedom. Solomon even sacrifices his family for his desire to become free.

Symbolisms allow the readers to think twice about the meaning of words. This book can not be understood by skimming. The readers must interact with the author. Symbolism such as flying as escapism holds the readers interested, while the exact meaning of some words are left for the readers to decide. On top of this, intricate relationships between families and friends, and their ironical changes keep the story from being dry. For example, the binary opposition Guitar goes through with Milkman is surprising. From the beginning of the book, Guitar and Milkman are best friends who give each other trust. However, when the gold was to be divided between Milkman, Macon, and Guitar, Guitar lets his greed take-over his friendship. He begins to suspect Milkman, who seeks a journey by himself to find the gold that he promises to share. Guitar even sacrifices to kill Milkman for his share of gold. Studying these relationships prevent the readers from dropping this book.

I have only covered very little of this great book so I strongly recommend teenagers and adults to have a good read of this book. It contains life lessons, interesting relationships, struggle between two classes, sacrifices for one's desire, and so much more.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
This was the first Toni Morrison book I've read and it's made me a fan. The characters in this book are each so fully developed, you feel like you know them personally and you understand their motives for their actions. There is no one-dimensional character in this book and the plot is totally driven by the characters' flaws and aspirations. I learned so much about early 20th century Black history from reading this book. I really think it should be assigned reading for any student of American history and/or literature. I especially enjoyed the dialogue of the book, it's written in such a real and lively way that I could actually "hear" the different voices of the characters. The style of the book, in that it has elements of magic realism, reminds of the books by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, such as One Hundred Years of Solitude. It's a book you have to think through, it's not what I would call light, summer reading. But if you are willing to put in a little more time and energy, you will be rewarded with a well-crafted story that spans several generations.
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