Erica Horne, April 3, 2009 (view all comments by Erica Horne)
In her latest novel Toni Morrison takes us back to the late 17th century America. The plot gives her an opportunity to present America in the making, there is no US yet, there are colonies, each somewhat different in their culture, religion or attitude to slavery. Sending her characters on distant voyages Morrison adroitly shapes the plot in such a way as to give the reader at least an impression of the variety that America once was. The differences between people and places are the most clearly visible in the opposition between Maryland and New York yet the choice of characters also helps Morrison to stress the diversity of American roots.
And yet "A Mercy" is not just a historical novel. The setting is important but Morrison is much more interested in her characters presented in the novel with depth and insight. This concentration is reflected in the form of the book - we get to know about the events from the characters in a series of monologues which culminate in the final monologue of Florens' mother which ties some of the book's loose ends and answers some of its haunting questions.
Each of the monologues comes from a completely different character - a slave, a native American, a Dutch etc. - this variety is almost incredible but serves to add a depth to the book, broadens the view the reader gets.
As usual in Morrison's fiction the characters are mostly women. As a result the book to some degree fails as a HIStory book, it is much more of a HERstory book, offering the reader a selection of points of view usually missing in more traditional history writing both fictional and scholarly.
In short: another great book from a Nobel-prize winning novelist.
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tynlyd, December 16, 2008 (view all comments by tynlyd)
Beautiful! A great novel! I haven't liked the last couple she wrote but this one made me read it all in one day. Beautiful language and a great plot!
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Knopf Publishing Group -
I disappeared into A Mercy like no novel in ages. Morrison's 17th-century panorama builds upon vivid scenes and characters until what emerges is nothing less than the forecast of America — both its ills and dreams.
"Review A Day"
by Carlin Romano, Philadelphia Inquirer,
"What a pleasure...to watch 77-year-old Toni Morrison, the last literary Nobelist (1993) from a culture dismissed this year as 'too insular' to merit the Swedish Academy's nod, bound into literature with her new book as if it were the first time, with the spry energy of a doe....[B]eguiling and beautiful...deftly condensed...sinewy with imaginative sentences, lyric flight and abundant human sensitivity." (read the entire Philadelphia Inquirer review)
"Review A Day"
by Ruth Franklin, The New Republic,
"The overlaps between the language of love and the language of ownership are undeniable, from the declaration of mutual ownership "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine" from the biblical Song of Solomon (which is also the title of Morrison's best novel) to the conception of sex as "taking" or "possession." But while such tropes can appear to be innocent and even romantic, what Morrison is out to demonstrate is that slavery of any kind, even the enslavement in passion, is dangerous to the soul." (read the entire New Republic review)
by Booklist (Starred Review),
"[R]iveting, even poetic....A fitting companion to her highly regarded Beloved."
by Kirkus Reviews,
"Gorgeous language and powerful understanding of the darkest regions in the human heart....[T]his allusive, elusive little gem adds its own shadowy luster to the Nobel laureate's shimmering body of work."
by Random House,
A new novel, set, like Beloved, in the American past. Nobel Prize-winning author Morrison's latest masterpiece centers on a powerful tragedy involving a mother and daughter, and reveals how acts of mercy have unforeseen consequences.
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