- my rating: 5 stars
- published by: Plume
- genres: classic, literary fiction
- diversity: black mc, majority black side cast
- where to purchase: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
Sula, the second book by Pulitzer Prize winning author Toni Morrison tells the story of Medallion and Bottom, Sula and Nel.
Sula, the main character, grew up in the black town known as Bottom, ironically situated on the top of a hill. Her best friend, Nel, also grew up in Bottom and the to strike up a friendship based on mutual experience and an admiration for eachothers situations. Sula comes from a non-conformist family where the women are generally sexually liberal, Nel from a conformist traditional family.
In Sula, the two will struggle with their relationship, the differences in their ideas and the prejudice, ostracisation and expectations that come along with being black women.
“Lonely, ain’t it?
Yes, but my lonely is mine. Now your lonely is somebody else’s. Made by somebody else and handed to you. Ain’t that something? A secondhand lonely.”
The New York Times described this book as “enormously, achingly alive” and I could not word it better myself.
It’s not a secret Toni Morrison writes beautiful books, so I know I’m not saying anything groundbreaking here but this is such a beautiful book. Sula is breathtaking, incredibly perceptive, full of emotion and, of course, beautifully written. I really cannot emphasise how breathtaking some of the prose is in this book. It is poetic and lyrical and I found myself rereading passages because I loved them so much.
Sula immediately grabs you and throws you into a brutal world, and yet it is funny and ironic and quirky. You are introduced to the Bottom – a town ironically situated on the top of the mountain and it goes from there.
Morrison explores with creativity and passion the troubles and challenges facing communities and individuals, the black community, but especially black women. It is incredibly perceptive and honest, funny in it’s challenges to society and American institution and yet brutally honest.
This book has some horrible and shocking scenes, but at it’s core it is a story of friendship and belonging. These elements completely drew me into the story – it is easy to become invested in Sula and her friendships.
I absolutely loved the friendship between Sula and Nel, their friendship went through dips and waves where they lost and regained connection, but in the end the way this story wound back to their friendship and emphasised that aspect really pulled me in. Sula and Nel have a fraught relationship, and the way that complexity played out was my favourite aspect of this book.
Sula doesn’t shy away from tackling an abundance of issues, this is such a short book but it really covers a bunch of issues in incredible depth and with an honesty and perception I admired. Always Toni Morrison humanises her characters, and fills them with emotions – love, joy, sorrow, pain, hurt all drip off the page here. This is why it felt so alive, because the characters felt so big and true.
“It was a fine cry – loud and long – but it had no bottom and it had no top, just circles and circles of sorrow.”
Sula is easily one of the best classics I’ve ever read, across all aspects of the board. It’s a classic that is important, wonderfully written, entertaining and easy to follow. Toni Morrison infuses her characters with so much love and life, and although I read this book for school, I enjoyed it such an incredible amount it didn’t even feel like required reading.
This is the first review I’m planning in a series of classic reviews, so let me know if you have any specific classics you’d like reviews for. Has anyone read any other Toni Morrison books? I feel like I should read Beloved since it’s supposed to be her Magnum Opus
Until next time !