(Buy it HERE.)
It took me a long time to re-read The Bluest Eye this go-round–not because it’s a difficult or complicated read, but because the prose is so dense and delicious that reading it is like eating an expensive dessert. I savored each sentence slowly, not wanting the book to end.
From the first simple sentence, (“Here is the house.”) Morrison immerses us in 1940s Ohio and the intense world of sad little Pecola Breedlove and her schoolgirl friends Frieda and Claudia. The girls are black and female in a time and place with no great love for either of those things, and Pecola is so marked by external and internal hatred that she longs for blue eyes. This takes her to the point of mental catastrophe–that isn’t a spoiler. If anything, it’s a trigger warning, because this book does get quite grim and it has nothing to do with Pecola’s eyes, in the end.
The story explores issues of race, class, gender, the impossibility of beauty standards, and the deep vulnerability and systemic victimization of women, specifically black women, deftly and painfully. More than that, though, it struck me on this re-read that this book is also an exploration of what happens in communities when people are made powerless by their desperation to be loved in a world which has no intention of loving them.
The prose is beautiful and the story is poignant and hauntingly personal while maintaining a respect for the people represented within. There is violence, abuse, assault, deep pain, misguided attempts at healing and all the horrifying aftermaths of those things–but there are also beautiful days, deep family bonds and enduring friendships. No one is entirely a villain, a hero, or any other trope. Ultimately, this book is a truthful and unflinching examination of a slice of humanity and well worth a read or re-read.
5 stars to The Bluest Eye.
(If you want to read Pecola’s story, consider ordering it HERE from Bookshop.org and supporting indie booksellers and this blog. I am an affiliate of Bookshop and will earn a commission if you click through and purchase. Thanks! )