The book is about two young girls- Sula and Nel- set in a little town in the hills called Bottom circa 1920s - 1940s. Their story is about racism, segregation, poverty, sexism, and twisted family dynamics. Sula and Nel are thick as thieves as young girls, as they grow older they also grow apart. Nel settles down with her husband and three children in the only town she’s ever known. While Sula left for college and to see the world. When Sula returns home after a decade she makes an unforgivable mistake that unravels Nel’s life and their friendship. And unwittingly Sula strengthens the community against her as the town makes a villian out of her. Even with the ominous air that hangs about Sula, it is hard not to empathize with her predicament.
It has been a while since I read this kind of book. The powerful kind that moves something inside you that you didn’t know was there. The kind that made me love reading in the first place. Morrison’s story about the black community set in the early 20th century is pure, raw, and light-hearted as much as it is horrifying and heartbreaking. It is beautifully written and not a wasted word in sight- the prose characteristic of a soon-to-be Pulitzer and Nobel prize winner. The pacing is superb, Morrison barely spares a dull moment. She reels you right in at the start and finishes strongly. (I read the paperback but I’ve read that the audiobook narrated by Morrison is lovely so I’ll be saving that for a future long-distance commute).
🕵 How I Discovered It
Tim Hardford’s interview on this episode of the FT Weekend. He mentions a quote that struck me and I knew I had to read this book (the first one under quotes).
On a side note, I enjoyed this episode of the podcast so maybe give it a listen. And lastly, Tim Hardford’s linked article is also a short one worth reading.
✍️ My Favorite Quotes
“I sure did live in this world.’ ‘Really? What have you got to show for it?’ ‘Show? To who? I got my mind. And what goes on in it. Which is to say, I got me.’ ‘Lonely, ain’t it?’ ‘Yes. But my lonely is mine. Now your lonely is somebody else’s. Made by somebody else and handed to you.”
“In a way, her strangeness, her naiveté, her craving for the other half of her equation was the consequence of an idle imagination. Had she paints, or clay, or knew the discipline of the dance, or strings, had she anything to engage her tremendous curiosity and her gift for metaphor, she might have exchanged the restlessness and preoccupation with whim for an activity that provided her with all she yearned for. And like an artist with no art form, she became dangerous.”
“The real hell of Hell is that it is forever.’ Sula said that. She said doing anything forever and ever was hell.” “…Sula was wrong. Hell ain’t things lasting forever. Hell is change.”