Book Review: Their Eyes were watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God

As a teenager, Janie’s grandmother married her off as quickly as possible to an old man with his prospects in his sixty acres. When she’s tired of being stifled by him, she runs away with a man she found on the horizon, Jody. When Jody claims Eatonville and becomes the mayor, he takes her voice and covers her hair. Finally, she meets Tea Cake after Jody’s death, and she realizes what it means to be in love.

Alright, I’ll admit it. I was completely bored in the beginning of this book. And I hated the dialect. And I didn’t really have any feelings toward Janie because to me, she seemed very papery.

I can’t tell you exactly where the transition happened or why, but somewhere toward the middle I realized that I actually really enjoyed reading this book.

First of all, after Janie’s initial marriage and into her second one with Jody, I understood the weight of her voice and the toll it took on her to muffle it. And I started to appreciate how Hurston set up the novel and characterized Janie. It was subtle. She wasn’t papery. She was smart.

One of the major topics Hurston explores is the power of language, and she shows this through Janie’s marriages and attitudes. She hardly talks at all while married to Jody, showing her position as less than him, while with Tea Cake, they have real conversations and her dialogue is scattered throughout the end of the novel. She uses the form of the novel, not giving Janie much dialogue to greatly increasing it, to show her transition from less than her husband to equal with him. By doing this, I mistook her silence for two dimensional, but really it means so much more because language and the lack thereof shows the inequality between genders and Janie’s strategies in her marriage.

It is written pretty much completely in dialect, but I quickly got used to it. I also think the dialect definitely adds to the story, making it more real and emphasizing her themes on the importance of language.

Otherwise, I felt like there was probably a lot of stuff in the book that I missed. Plot wise, it picked up when Jody got sick. There is a bit of a twist with Tea Cake that I wasn’t expecting, but I also neglected to read the back and am a cynic, so it probably wouldn’t be surprising to anyone else.

I really did enjoy the book, and I liked how it didn’t seem like a race novel. Sure, there was a subtheme concerning racism and how it can affect anyone, black or white, but it didn’t overtake the novel. The novel is a classic because of its themes on language and equality, not because it’s only directed toward one audience.

I definitely recommend it as an important classic that isn’t that difficult to read.

4 Stars

“She had waited all her life for something, and it had killed her when it found her.”

Book Review: Spare Change by Bette Lee Crosby

spare change

 

Olivia Westerly decided to finally settle down by the time most women she knew were up to their ears grandchildren. When Charles Doyle, her new husband, sweeps her off her feet, she’s never been happier. That is, until the new bride becomes a new widow. Alone again, she finds Ethan Allen, a little boy who has plopped himself on her doorstep with a horrifying story he won’t share with anyone. Olivia and Ethan Allen band together to make sure the past stays the past while helping each other through the hardships in their lives.

I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did. It’s definitely more of an adult book, and the writing style is very different. This is some hardcore realistic fiction. The book is pretty emotional and heartbreaking, but it’s something that could happen. It really shows all of life’s hardships.

There are a couple different people that the book focuses on, and it jumps from situation to situation to give you the full affect. The read knows what everyone is doing and everything that is happening, which is interesting. On the one hand, it takes out most of the suspense; on the other hand, it adds to the intensity because the reader is biting their nails waiting for something to happen.

Also, it’s written in third person but there are pages at the beginning of each chapter with different characters’ perspectives on a certain event. This is very different from most books that I’ve read. Despite the third person, this technique helps you get closer to the individual characters while still being able to understand the full story.

It has a southern setting, and Bette Lee Crosby makes this apparent with the dialogue between the characters. All the dialogue is realistic and the characters have a depth to them that makes the both relatable and appalling. None of them are without flaws. Each one has their ups and downs, and it’s interesting how Crosby somehow evokes pity, disgust, and happiness for all the characters. For instance, Ethan Allen’s mom wasn’t very nice by any stretch of the imagination. She hated the thought of having a child, she had affairs, and she wasn’t a very good mother. But the reader still feels pity for her when her husband hits her and disgust at her attitude and happiness when things are going right. All these things are what make the book so realistic. Nobody is even close to perfect.

This isn’t something I’d normally pick up and read, but I’m glad I read it. It opened my eyes to different styles of writing rather than the normal young adult formula I’m used to. The book covers all areas of life while still having a fast moving pace.

4 Stars