by Zora Neale Hurston
First sentence: “Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.”
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I really didn’t know what to expect when I started this book. Honestly. I hadn’t heard much about it, and I only knew Zora Hurston from Zora and Me which I read last fall.
So, my impressions…
Shall I get the negative over with? The dialect dialogue drove me nuts. Random sample: “Dat’s jealousy and malice. Some uh dem very mens wants tuh do whut dey claim deys skeered Tea Cake is doin’.” Not too bad on it’s own, but pages and pages of it pulled me out of the flow of the novel. Every single time. I do have a couple prejudices when going into novels, and dialect is one of them. (Present tense in the other.) However, I am proud of myself: I kept going in spite of being pulled out of the novel.
Mostly because the writing (when it was in English and not Southern) was so gorgeous. Random sample:
“So, gradually, she pressed her teeth together and learned to hush. The spirit of the marriage left the bedroom and took to living in the parlor. It was there to shake hands whenever company came to visit, but it never went back inside the bedroom again. So she put something in there to represent the spirit like a Virgin Mary image in a church. The bed was no longer a daisy-field for her and Joe to play in. It was a place where she went and laid down when she was sleepy and tired.”
So simple and yet so evocative. The whole book — the narration, anyway — was like that. Simply gorgeous, poetic. And the story about a woman coming into her own, finding her own path to happiness in the face of expectations and overbearing/abusive husbands. It’s a testament to the resilience of women, the inner strength a woman has when faced with Life.
And for that, the book is more than worth reading.