“A backward noplace ruled by men whose power to control was out of control and who had the nerve to say who could live and who not and where; who had seen in lively, free, unarmed females the mutiny of the mares and so got rid of them.”
Paradise by Toni Morrison
Star rating: ★★★★ ☆ 4/5 stars
Summary: Set in a town called Ruby in rural Oklahoma, Paradise tells the story of a massacre at a former convent and the events leading up to this violence against five women living out at the Convent.
Reasons for picking this book: I’d read a bit of Toni Morrison’s Beloved for a class before and enjoyed it. I picked up Paradise at Goodwill because I wanted to read more by her and it just so happened that Paradise was an Oprah book club book.
Review: I feel like this is a book I would get the most out of if I took a class that featured it. This is definitely a book to take apart and examine slowly with in-depth conversations and not just devour the story itself. It requires a lot of reflection. It might sound odd but I feel that I would rate this book five stars if I had attended a lecture for it.
I wish I still had access to Jstor so I could read some essays on this, I feel that’d make me feel better but I don’t have free access through being a student anymore. Ah well.
For the first quarter of the book I was fairly confused, the narrative is not told in chronological sequence really. It jumps around and I kept getting confused as to what had happened when. It slowly became clearer to me but I had to reread some and go slowly so that I could place everything in my mind right.
Paradise was very good, it told a story of an all black town, something I hadn’t found in another book before. It was interesting to me to read about a community and concerns that I wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise. Such as when the townspeople are traveling and turned out of other all black towns because they are too dark. There was a lot of other race issues that I’m glad I was exposed to by this novel, it’s set in the 70s so there are a lot of racial tensions with civil rights movement being mentioned a lot. There was a little controversy in the town when one of the women there grew her hair out and kept it styled naturally.
There were a lot of supernatural elements to the novel but I wasn’t really sure what the supernatural rules were. I like to have clear rules for magic you know? And that wasn’t the case here. I thought it was interesting that the magic the townspeople were accusing the Convent of actually came from the town itself. If it hadn’t been for Lone talking to Connie about her powers I don’t think she would have ever acknowledged them. And then would she have ended up in so much trouble in the end? It seems the town never really trusted the Convent even when it was full of nuns so I actually doubt it would have helped but it is interesting that it is the towns fault Connie ever starts using magic.
I liked the ambiguity of the novel, how Morrison never reveals who the white woman is at the Convent and how you’re never sure if they are dead at the end or not. I enjoy ambiguity like this in novels, where it’s not quite clear and you can add a bit of interpretation of your own.
This book is apparently part of a trilogy but stand alone so I didn’t feel lost even though it’s actually the last book of the trilogy. I want to eventually read the other two and see how they piece together.
Recommendations: There is a lot of violence and sex and sexual violence as well in this book so keep that in mind if you are thinking of reading. I’m normally not bothered by these in books but it was a bit intense in this book. It is not light reading at all but excellent literature.
Up next: Autobiography of Theodore Roosevelt – An autobiography