It’s Monday, and that’s appropriate, because I feel that I’m in a bit of a slump. I haven’t been connecting with what I’ve been reading lately, which just makes me want to stare off into space. That said, I’m concerned that the following review is going to reflect my humdrum mood as opposed to the quality of the writing. I suppose it’s possible that I soaked up the melancholy tone of the writing more than I realized and THAT is what’s making me all gray…
I just finished reading Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. It detailed the plight of an African American woman named Janie during the 1920s. Janie was raised by her grandmother in a white family’s outbuilding. Her grandmother lives long enough to see Janie married off to what she deems is a safe match. Unfortunately, Janie has other ideas.
Janie is not content to live in a loveless marriage. She is full of vitality and has her own ideas about the life she wants to lead. This energy leads her on a journey that she could never have expected. We follow Janie through several marriages, emotional turmoil, community unrest, high standards, seasonal labor, and Mother Nature’s wrath. There’s even a seriously intense Old Yeller moment that’ll break your heart into 10,000 pieces.
Janie’s trials are heartbreaking. Hurston’s empathy for the impoverished population she writes about is palpable. She points out all their foibles, but also the beauty in their lifestyles as well. The state of African American society in Florida barely a generation removed from slavery was fascinating. However…
I had a hard time connecting with this book. Maybe it was the overabundance of sorrow that put me off. Perhaps it was that even when things were going well for Janie she was still in pretty dire situations. Like… She’s in love with Tea Cake, but he’s occasionally physically abusive and a compulsive gambler… I mean, c’mon Janie! I think my biggest stumbling block was the dialect. Hurston wrote large portions of this book in the thick Southern drawl and colloquial language authentic to the people of the period. Unfortunately, that’s now how I speak. I very nearly had to read the words aloud in order to understand what was being said. I can understand why this book is considered a classic and I can appreciate its inherent beauty. However, Their Eyes Were Watching God is never going to be one of my favorite books.
You’ve got to help me out here, Bookworms. What do you do when you’re in a reading slump? Do you revisit an old favorite? Read something you know will be light? Take a break? All suggestions are welcome!
I should also mention that we have a WINNER in the Blogiversary Giveaway! Leah from Books Speak Volumes (which is a sweet little book blog you should check out) came up the lucky number. Congratulations, Leah! (Send me an email with your address to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get your package in the mail!)