Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston

May 26, 2011 at 19:14 (Book Reviews, Fiction, Highly Rated Books, Romantic Fiction) (, , , , )


It is difficult to pick up a theme in this book, and hold onto it long enough to feel truly at home with it. Hurston slings her readers back and forth between four different stories–the dim Eatonville of the present, and each of her protagonist’s wildly different marriages–without mercy and without hesitation, and the book ends abruptly before any of these have really hit home.

Their Eyes Were Watching God could either be described as bleak, or as forlorn and wistful; Hurston does not really go deep enough into the story, and does not seem committed enough to tracing the lives of her creations, for either description to seem entirely appropriate.

Her great success, if it is not necessarily found in the harrowing pain or in the dazzling glory of her narration, is in her startling way with words, and her almost careless ability to command the English language to stand up and dance for her. Hurston’s prose is poetic without appearing florid and deeply metaphorical without becoming melodramatic; she slips in the most intricate phrases, shocking in their simplicity and fragility; and then forgotten and left, set gently aside for the rustic speech of her characters. This framework of linguistic beauty is what this book ought chiefly to be read for, and its tragedy and history secondarily.

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