Thursday, April 11, 2013

Their Eyes were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston



Blurb on the back: One of the most important works of twentieth-century American literature, Zora Neale Hurston's beloved 1937 classic, "Their Eyes Were Watching God," is an enduring Southern love story sparkling with wit, beauty, and heartfelt wisdom. Told in the captivating voice of a woman who refuses to live in sorrow, bitterness, fear, or foolish romantic dreams, it is the story of fair-skinned, fiercely independent Janie Crawford, and her evolving selfhood through three marriages and a life marked by poverty, trials, and purpose. A true literary wonder, Hurston's masterwork remains as relevant and affecting today as when it was first published--perhaps the most widely read and highly regarded novel in the entire canon of African American literature.

My Thoughts: I pride myself to be a true-blue feminist and this book happens to be on every Feminism platitude there exists. I realise that it’s easy for me to sit here in the privileges of the 21st Century Modern Womanhood and criticise the accounts of a doubly oppressed character (woman + African – American) but I am afraid to say that this book doesn’t come across as the glorious ode to Feminism as some people make it out to be. And yes, that’s singularly the only reason I wanted to read in the first place. I am sure Zora Neale Hurston in her personal life must have been a true crusader for equality and liberation but this book isn’t the best example for it.

First of all, the book is literally really hard to read for someone who is unacquainted with the African-American vernacular in the Slavery era. Much like “Trainspotting” and “Wuthering Heights” words and phrases are spelt out phonetically and I had to pretty much read aloud most of the dialogue for it to make sense. Not very convenient if you are reading in a public place.

Secondly, the book isn’t very … what’s the word I am looking for …. hmmm, deep? The narrative is simple and straight forward with some lush metaphors and vivid poetry. Except for Janie Price the characters are quite rudimentary and initially I thought that is to set Janie apart from others but even the other main characters like Starks and Tea Cake end up being caricatures. The ending was a bit dramatic but unpredictable so I enjoyed that.

Overall this book falls prey to overhype surrounding it and its author; otherwise by itself it could have been a pleasant read.

Rating: 3/5

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