Toni Morrison – Sula

Posted on | June 25, 2011 | 9 Comments

sulaSpanning almost forty-five years (1921-1965), Sula revolves around two best friends: Sula and Nel, and how their friendship evolves and implodes over the years.

Growing up in a poverty-stricken black town in Ohio called Bottom, Sula is accustomed to men coming and going, as they please. Her mother and grandmother are fiercely independent women, and after her father died, her mother (Hannah) is keen for companionship, and doesn’t really care if the man is married or not. Still, Hannah is well-liked, despite sleeping with half the married men in the town… That stands testimony to the richness of the characters – that Morrison can make someone quite despicable come across as a lovely person.

Sula is a complex character though. Straight after Nel’s wedding, she leaves Bottom, and goes off to college and to enjoy the city life. She returns some ten years later, and carries on where her mother left off – sleeping with the men in the village and living a purely hedonist life.

The town-folk treat her as a pariah – the yardstick against which they measure good and evil. The truly godawful people in the town turn over a new leaf, and Sula continues to do as she pleases.

“When you gone to get married? You need to have some babies. It’ll settle you.’

‘I don’t want to make somebody else. I want to make myself.”

The glimpses into the lives of the villagers, through the years is not pleasant. Accidentally killing people, murders, a mother setting her own son on fire, and a daughter watching her mother burn with indifference, infidelity, broken promises and Suicide Day – this book really doesn’t make for comfortable reading, but then again, that’s not what Morrison’s aim was, with this book.

Instead, it’s a glimpse into the trials and tribulations of the African-American society in America in the early 1900s, where they are left to themselves and their own superstitions, trying to figure out where they belong. It’s a world where racism is rampant, and even the proudest African-American is subservient to the white people, when they are forced to interact.

The richness of the characters, and the depth of the story, despite it being a short book (174 pages) is incredible and it does show why Morrison is considered to be one of the most talented authors out there. While my first experience with Morrison wasn’t exactly amazing (I hated it), with time, I am slowly beginning to love her writing as much as some of the other bloggers out there, and I reckon with time, I will read her entire backlist. Love is next for me. And for you? Which is your favourite book by the Nobel Laureate?


9 Responses to “Toni Morrison – Sula”

  1. Claire (Paperback Reader)
    June 25th, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

    I read Sula years ago and only remember it vaguely but once I do exhaust Morrison’s work (still eking it out, with two remaining) I will revisit them often. My favourites are Beloved and Love.

  2. K (Baffled Books)
    June 25th, 2011 @ 4:48 pm

    I would have to say my favorite is ‘The Bluest Eye’.

  3. Stephanie
    June 25th, 2011 @ 5:26 pm

    I would say that The Bluest Eye is my favorite too, although I did like this one too!

  4. Erin
    June 25th, 2011 @ 8:36 pm

    I have never read anything by Toni Morrison, but she is on my list as an author I need to get to at some point soon. I anticipate her being a little hard to read, but at the same time it seems she’ll be worth the work. Perhaps we can coordinate a book of hers sometime? :-)

  5. JoAnn
    June 26th, 2011 @ 3:22 pm

    I’ve tried Beloved twice and can’t seem to get past page 50. Maybe I’d have a different reaction to Sula – excellent review!

  6. Sarah
    June 27th, 2011 @ 12:25 am

    Great review, and I do feel inspired now to read more Morrison. To date I have only read Beloved. I enjoyed the read and found Morrison to be an accomplished author, so why is it so hard to pick up another…?

  7. Steph
    June 27th, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

    Toni Morrison has NEVER let me down! I love her books so, so much and am slowly making my way through them. Last year I read Love along with Claire from Kiss A Cloud, Claire from Paperback Reader, and Nymeth from Things Mean A Lot. We all focused on different elements, but we all really enjoyed the book. I think you’ll probably like it too!

  8. Coffee and a Book Chick
    June 28th, 2011 @ 2:34 pm

    What an excellent reminder on a book I read years ago. I must hop down memory lane and revisit this. Beautiful, beautiful book.

  9. anothercookiecrumbles
    June 28th, 2011 @ 10:49 pm

    @Claire : I have Love on the shelf, which will, in all likelihood, be my next book by Morrison. I do have you to thank though, for giving Morrison a second try after the not-so-great first encounter with A Mercy! I’ll enjoy going through her backlist slowly.

    @K : I’ve not yet read that one. All in good time… all in….

    @Stephanie : The Bluest Eye will be sought out once I read Love (which is already wallowing on my shelves).

    @Erin : That sounds great! Let’s do it! :)

    @JoAnn : Thanks! Sorry to hear about your experience with Beloved. Maybe give another Morrison a shot, before you decide whether she’s for you or not?!

    @Sarah : I don’t know… I guess there are so many books to read, and so little time, that authors just get missed while the Russians are getting all the attention. ;) Maybe it’s time to try another Morrison?

    @Steph : Thanks for that. Love is next in line, so I am looking forward to it. Guess that’s the great thing about Morrison… so much richness that everyone ends up focusing on different things.

    @Coffee and a Book Chick : I’d encourage that. :) Hope the visit down memory lane is well worth it. I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t be.

Leave a Reply

  • upcoming reviews & thoughts

  • going back in time

  • everything bookish

  • Site Admin