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The Bluest Eye (Vintage International) Paperback – May 8, 2007
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Oprah Book Club® Selection, April 2000: Originally published in 1970, The Bluest Eye is Toni Morrison's first novel. In an afterword written more than two decades later, the author expressed her dissatisfaction with the book's language and structure: "It required a sophistication unavailable to me." Perhaps we can chalk up this verdict to modesty, or to the Nobel laureate's impossibly high standards of quality control. In any case, her debut is nothing if not sophisticated, in terms of both narrative ingenuity and rhetorical sweep. It also shows the young author drawing a bead on the subjects that would dominate much of her career: racial hatred, historical memory, and the dazzling or degrading power of language itself.
Set in Lorain, Ohio, in 1941, The Bluest Eye is something of an ensemble piece. The point of view is passed like a baton from one character to the next, with Morrison's own voice functioning as a kind of gold standard throughout. The focus, though, is on an 11-year-old black girl named Pecola Breedlove, whose entire family has been given a cosmetic cross to bear:
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.There are far uglier things in the world than, well, ugliness, and poor Pecola is subjected to most of them. She's spat upon, ridiculed, and ultimately raped and impregnated by her own father. No wonder she yearns to be the very opposite of what she is--yearns, in other words, to be a white child, possessed of the blondest hair and the bluest eye.
This vein of self-hatred is exactly what keeps Morrison's novel from devolving into a cut-and-dried scenario of victimization. She may in fact pin too much of the blame on the beauty myth: "Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another--physical beauty. Probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought. Both originated in envy, thrived in insecurity, and ended in disillusion." Yet the destructive power of these ideas is essentially colorblind, which gives The Bluest Eye the sort of universal reach that Morrison's imitators can only dream of. And that, combined with the novel's modulated pathos and musical, fine-grained language, makes for not merely a sophisticated debut but a permanent one. --James Marcus --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
No doubt spurred on by Morrison's winning of the 1993 Nobel prize for literature, Plume is releasing trade paperback editions of her novels, beginning with this title (LJ 11/1/70). These editions also include a new afterword by the author.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The Bluest Eye tell the story of the Breedloves, a poor black family living in Lorain, Ohio in the early 1940s. Each chapter tells something different -- the journey of the dad, Cholly, from curious young boy to a drunk and unloving father; the history of the mother, Pauline, and her dreams of movie stars and romance; and the childhood of the children, Sammy and Pecola, and how they deal with life as they've been given. Full of hardships and unfairness, the Breedloves have been through tough times most of their lives. And young Pecola's wishes of blue eyes and blonde hair in order to be loved and respected by others is a testament to the unjust world they lived in.
My fear is that this review won't do the book justice. There is so much written here that left me with feelings of sadness and horror, but also of hope -- hope that our world now has moved on from the racism of the past and will eventually surpass it. The Bluest Eye is highly moving and sensitive, and written in an addictive easy and lyrical style. I may have missed an important part of the book, any underlying symbolism or meaning that Toni Morrison was trying to convey -- I don't know. All I do know is The Bluest Eye is a darn good story, and I'm extremely glad I read it.
It does pose a difficult read for those looking for a casual book, because it is a deep and complexly interwoven book meant to stir emotions and one's mind. I am amazed at the spotlight reviews who seem confused by her style of writing and could not become involved with the characters. Morrison uses a recursive approach, one that breathes new life into each chapter (as a new character is introduced Morrison takes the time to back track to explain that person's past before joining the character with the present time of the book; Morrison's Master's Thesis was on Faulkner, who used the recursive style heavily). Although this could create confusion if you aren't aware of it, I think it makes for an altogether complete and compelling story.
The Convent itself and the women that reside within are compelling, and sad, stories ready to be told, and as they unfold with their interactions with Ruby it creates a book that is absolutely amazing.
This book is not for those looking for a quick easy read, or something that goes from point A to point B with no stops in between. This book will test your mind and emotions as the tale unfolds through complex chapters, leaving you with a much more fulfilling book than one that does not make you think about what you are reading. If I could give this a six star rating, I wouldn't hesitate.
HOWEVER, if you haven't experienced abuse, this is a really important book. It gives you an important and vastly underrepresented perspective on the ways systems built on racism and neglect fail children of color and allow for horrific things to happen to them, and the narration of the book is actually beautiful and very compelling. It is hard to read, it is difficult subject material, but push through it. It's a good and worthwhile book.