April 13, 2012

Book:Paradise by Toni Morrison

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 10:26 am

This is the second of Toni Morrison’s books to be reviewed here.  As you may perhaps remember, Song of Solomon was reviewed earlier .

Toni Morrison here talks of a story of Oven, a village created by black people (Eleven families to be exact) in the middle of nowhere and their attempts to survive as an independent community. In order to ensure the survival, they impose strict codes (of conduct, of justice and arbitration) on the entire community. The prize that they get for such arduous life is to be free of the widespread discrimination and exploitation by the whites elsewhere in the US.

The story tells of what goes wrong in the experiment. A group of girls, who are down on their luck and nowhere to go, find refuge with the only white woman (Consolata) in the outskirts of the village, a place called Convent. The characters in the willage, the Flood family, the twin brothers and their wives, K.D barely under control, his affairs and marriage, Lone DuPres, the child they kidnapped on the way to form Oven (or Ruby) as well as the Convent group of Gigi, Sweenie, Mavis…

Each of these characters has a history and you walk through their lives with them. The fascinating, (but sometimes confusing) technique of moving back and forth in time adds weight to the story telling style. However, I would rate Song of Solomon as a far better book than this one, though this one is fascinating in itself.

You get the sense of having known the characters well by the time book ends, and due to the story telling style, the ending is very close to the beginning in timeframe, which is fascinating.

In both books, the common themes are – black-people-centric stories, the technique of sliding forward in time and bringing you up to date with fillers to tell you what you missed, and filling you with a sense of knowing the characters well at the end of the book.

I believe it is the first book Toni Morrison wrote after she won the Nobel Prize. (She also has won the Pulitzer). Some of the Nobel prize winners can be really, really hard to read (William Faulkner comes to mind!) but she is very understandable, and if you can live with the confusing time-shifting, her books provide a rewarding experience as well….

I would say a 7/10

— Krishna


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