Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God is considered to be the first Afro-American feminist novel. I can definitely see why this is so. The heroine, Janie, is strong, intelligent, articulate and self-confident. She is one of the first black heroines to be like this, to have a mind of her own and to have her rich internal dialogue shown in literature.

Janie is a great character. She has so much common sense and I loved the way she behaved, not caring about social standards. She is also soft and feminine and romantic, so basically she's real. Her story is both sad and happy. A large portion of her life is very hard, but eventually she finds true love and her life is finally like she imagined and hoped it would be when she was a little girl.

One thing that I didn't like at the beginning but understood better after reading the introduction to this book is the dialogue between men. It annoyed me and I thought it was because it never actually brought the story forward, it didn't really contribute anything. I read afterwards that the author did this on purpose to signify a lack of growth. That made me see the novel in a completely different context.

I had some trouble 'reading the accent'... it was slow going at times and I really preferred the third person narrative just because it was easier to read.

And with writing like this, I didn't want to miss anything. Zora Neale Hurston's prose has been described as poetry and at times it really is. Here are two sentences that spoke to me:

It was like a flute song forgotten in another existence and remembered again.

Isn't that beautiful? Or:

There are years that ask questions and years that answer.

That is so true. And beautiful. And, to me at least, so powerful that the words are alive.

It makes me happy that a book like this is now a classic, considering that it didn't get very good reviews at the beginning. Not surprising though, since most reviewers were men!

Challenges: Decades Challenge, Genre Challenge


Lezlie said...

I'm thinking about joining the Themed Reading Challenge and making the theme African American Lit. This is one of the books I was thinking about. Glad to hear it would be worth it! :-)


joanna said...

Yeah, I like the Themed idea too, but can't think of creative theme... And yes, it would be. Alice Walker's The Color Purple is another good one.

Lezlie said...

I was considering that one, too. Some others I'm thinking about are The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Invisible Man, Native Son, Black Boy. . . There are so many good ones out there!


joanna said...

I haven't read any of those... and I'm sure there are more!

Michele said...

Love the quotes you chose!

joanna said...

Hi Michele, yeah, they really touched me. There are so many more like that in the book too!

Sherry said...

What an informative review! I know just what you liked about the book and am warned that some of the dialect might be hard going, but it's worth it. Thanks.

While I'm out and about for the Blog Advent TOur, I'm inviting folks to the Saturday Review of Books held at my blog Semicolon each Saturday. If you've never participated, it's a chance to leave links to your book reviews for the week and read those of others. Here's last Saturday's Review, for a sample. I hope you'll link to this review on Saturday.

joanna said...

Hi Sherry - thanks for the info, I'll stop by!

Bookphilia said...

Great review - I remember feeling much the same about this book when I first read it.

Have you read any more of her stuff? None of it is very well known and she apparently died in disgrace, although I can't recall why now.

joanna said...

DreamQueen - no I haven't, although apparently besides fiction she also wrote some non-fiction books about folkore and I'd be very interested in reading one of those.

Ana S. said...

I SO have to read this book next year.

joanna said...

Nymeth - yes indeed.

Joyce - great to have you visit, I'm glad you like it and that you're getting loads of new reading ideas! ;-)