Joy H.'s Reviews > A Mercy

A Mercy by Toni Morrison
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Toni Morrison's style of writing isn't to my taste. At times I did appreciate a certain beauty in the way she writes, but much of the time I found this book (_A Mercy_) unengaging and difficult to follow because of the obscure style in which the story is presented.

A reader's comment at Powell's Books says "... we get to know about the events from the characters in a series of monologues ... Each of the monologues comes from a completely different character - a slave, a native American, a Dutch etc."
FROM: http://www.powells.com/biblio/hardcov...

A review at about.com says: "A Mercy is not plot or character driven" ... [It's a:] "story about America's history of slavery and the extermination of Native Americans."
FROM: http://bestsellers.about.com/b/2009/0...

See the Goodreads description at:
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30...

Reading the reviews before I read the book, helped me to understand the novel. In the end, instead of a clear sense of the story, I was left with a lingering sense of the deep emotions which the various characters suffered. Perhaps that effect was the primary goal of the author.
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Wilhelmina Jenkins Even though you didn't particularly like it, Joy, I'm glad you gave it a try. At least it was one of her shorter books!


message 2: by Joy H. (last edited May 10, 2009 12:33AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Joy H. Hi Wilhelmina - Yes, I'm glad I experienced Morrison's style of writing. This book certainly was a different approach.

I recently read an interesting review of the movie _Beloved_, based on Morrison's book of the same name. You can see the review (by Charles Taylor) at the following website: ====>
http://www.salon.com/ent/movies/revie...
Excerpts:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"When Morrison's name comes up, even usually perspicacious critics start in with the hosannas. John Leonard, on the paperback edition of "Beloved," exclaims: "I can't imagine American literature without it!" Actually, I can't imagine Morrison without American literature. Her faux-Faulknerian interior prose is just the most obvious of her borrowings. In "Beloved" she also adds stilted attempts at magical realism, soggy folklorish interludes replete with soggy folklorish wisdom ("More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize"), a horror story and periodic outbursts of gruesome melodrama used as illustrations in Morrison's hectoring lecture on the bloodiest sin on America's racist soul. The self-consciously elevated language of the passage below might induce giggles if it appeared in a romance novel:..." [see quote at website:]

"But Morrison is nothing if not canny. Brandishing the fact of slavery and playing on America's collective shame, Morrison has cowed her would-be critics."


Above is from: http://www.salon.com/ent/movies/revie...
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Wilhelmina Jenkins Now that's a brutal review! I didn't like the movie, but I think he's being unfair about Morrison playing on America's shame. Like them or not, Morrison's books are uniquely her own and tell stories that she chooses to tell.


message 4: by Joy H. (last edited May 10, 2009 12:28AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Joy H. Wilhelmina wrote: "Now that's a brutal review! I didn't like the movie, but I think he's being unfair about Morrison playing on America's shame. Like them or not, Morrison's books are uniquely her own and tell stories that she chooses to tell."

I have no quarrel with the stories Morrison chooses to tell. I think they should be told. What I take issue with is her way of making her stories so hard to understand. As Goodreads reviewer, Yetunde, put it in her review of _A Mercy_: "This book, while it had its moments of brilliance, was inundated with dense, incomprehensible prose. At times, I was unable to decipher who was speaking and when. It just wasn't a good read for me."

I think that what Charles Taylor was trying to say is that, because Morrison's stories are so important to America's history, critics hesitate to criticize her style of writing and her presentation. In other words, the critics are "cowed" by the high worth of Morrison's stories.

PS-I notice in Yetunde's profile that one of her favorite books is _Beloved_. See her profile at:
http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/14...


message 5: by Wilhelmina (last edited May 10, 2009 02:30PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Wilhelmina Jenkins Dense, without a doubt! In fact, my church book club has surrendered - we have a "No Morrison" rule, just because so many of us were wiped out by the effort! My problem with "Beloved" is a little different. I just can't handle books in which people kill their children, for any reason. I'm very happy that my ancestors decided that their families would survive, no matter what, or I wouldn't be sitting here writing you this note!




Joy H. Wilhelmina wrote: "Dense, without a doubt! In fact, my church book club has surrendered - we have a "No Morrison" rule, just because so many of us were wiped out by the effort! ..."

I feel the same way about not reading Morrison. Too dense for my taste. Dense writing makes me feel "dense" myself and I don't like that feeling. The feeling is unwarranted, but there it is. In some cases, I welcome the challenge. In other cases, that kind of writing simply infuriates me, especially when they give it prizes. :) It's as if some books are rated highly based on their difficulty. I'll never understand that.

I'm glad that your ancestors decided their families would survive too, Wilhelmia!


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