Synopses & Reviews
Nobel Prize laureate Toni Morrisons spellbinding new novel is a Faulknerian symphony of passion and hatred, power and perversity, color and class that spans three generations of black women in a fading beach town.
In life, Bill Cosey enjoyed the affections of many women, who would do almost anything to gain his favor. In death his hold on them may be even stronger. Wife, daughter, granddaughter, employee, mistress: As Morrisons protagonists stake their furious claim on Coseys memory and estate, using everything from intrigue to outright violence, she creates a work that is shrewd, funny, erotic, and heartwrenching.
"[A]n elegantly shaped epic...a rich symbolic mystery that grows steadily more eloquent and disturbing as its meanings clarify and grip the reader. One of Morrison's finest, and a heartening return to Nobel-worthy form." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"[A] dense, dark star of a novel, seemingly
eccentric, secretly shapely, with Faulknerian passions and
Nabokovian layers of lies and misdirection, the 19th-
century device of a disputed will and some 20th-century
social history and with Morrison...writing at the
top of her game." Newsweek
"Despite the simplicity of its title, Love is a profound novel....[A]s a vivid painter of human emotions, Morrison is without peer, her impressions rendered in an exquisitely metaphoric but comfortably open style." Brad Hooper, Booklist (Starred Review)
"[O]ne of her slighter efforts....[W]hile there are some beautifully observed passages in this book, where the author's distinctive style...takes over, the story as a whole reads like a gothic soap opera..." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"Love seduces with Toni Morrison's signature lush prose and colorfully complex, textured scenes of human longing, scheming, suffering, and loss." Lisa Shea, Elle
"Majestically written, fitfully beautiful, and fundamentally trivial....In this minor gothic soap opera, Morrison's storytelling gifts haven't failed her, but her material has. (Grade: B)" Jennifer Reese, Entertainment Weekly
"Some people, who probably haven't read Morrison in the first place, have a tendency to dismiss her as a propagandist, a victimologist, a knee-jerk uplifter of the race. As a Nobel laureate and the most celebrated black writer in history, she makes a large and satisfying target. But while Love
is indeed, in some large sense, a novel about the damaging legacy of slavery and racism, there is nothing simplistic anywhere in it. In no way does Morrison provide ideological excuses for Bill Cosey or the warring women around him, or apologize for the rape and murder, the petty torment and the money-grubbing and the malicious arson fires and the corruption that have poisoned the Cosey resort and the Cosey world." Andrew O'Hehir, Salon.com
(read the entire Salon review
"At times, Love
reads like notes for a novel 'Christine accepted his invitation to dinner. By dessert they had plans . . . . As couplehood goes, it had its moments. As marriage goes, it was ridiculous' at other times like notes for a by now predictable lecture....The reader of a disassembled story reasonably expects to come across something solid, around which it coheres. What is there in Love
? Homilies galore, of both the pragmatic and metaphorical kind..." James Campbell, Times Literary Supplement
(read the entire TLS review
About the Author
Toni Morrison is the Robert F. Goheen Professor of Humanities at Princeton University. She has received the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. In 1993 she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She lives in Rockland County, New York, and Princeton, New Jersey.
Reading Group Guide
1. Why has Toni Morrison chosen Love
as the title for her novel? In what ways is the book about love? What kinds of love affect and afflict its characters? What does the novel, taken as a whole, suggest about the nature of love?
2. The main narrative of Love is framed by and interspersed with Ls italicized reflections. Why does Morrison use this framing device? How does it affect the way the book is read? Is Ls interpretation of events the most reliable one? From what vantage point does she speak?
3. L claims she needs “something better” than an “old folks tale to draw on. . . . Like a story that shows how brazen women can take a good man down” [p. 10]. Is that what Love is mainly about? Is Cosey brought down by brazen women? Why would L think so?
4. Throughout the novel, Romen struggles to find his real self. When he refuses to join his friends in gang-raping a woman at a party, he does not understand at first why his heart bursts for “a wounded creature” and wonders, “What made him do it? Or rather, who? . . . But he knew who it was. It was the real Romen who had sabotaged the newly chiseled one” [p. 49]. Where else in the novel is Romen torn between lust and compassion? Which finally wins out in him?
5. L says that Mr. Cosey in the way he ran his hotel “wanted a playground for folk who felt the way he did, who studied ways to contradict history” [p. 103]. How does Mr. Cosey “contradict history”? What history, specifically, does he contradict? What makes his hotel so attractive to blacks in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s? Why does his hotel ultimately fail?
6. Junior tells Heed that shed “swallow lye before Id live with my folks.” Heed recognizes the feeling, “Were both out here, alone. With fire ants for family” [p. 127]. Why is family, in the novel, so often a source of misery?
7. When the Administrator at the Correctional institute pressures Junior for a sexual favor, she pushes him off the balcony. What are the short-and long-term consequences of this act for Junior? Why is she treated like a criminal for protecting herself?
8. How does the burgeoning civil rights movement affect the characters in the novel? What role does it play in Mays madness and in the decline of Mr. Coseys hotel?
9. Sandler thinks to himself that everyone forgave Cosey everything. “Even to the point of blaming a child for a grown mans interest in her. What was she supposed to do? Run away? Where? Was there someplace Cosey or Wilbur Johnson couldnt reach”? [p. 147]. In what ways are Heed and the other women in the novel trapped not only by racism but by the power men wield over them? Which seems to be the more oppressive force?
10. What destroys the friendship between Heed and Christine and turns them into the bitterest of enemies? What enables them to reconcile at the end of the novel?
11. Why is Mr. Cosey so drawn to the prostitute Celestial? Why would he want to leave everything to her?
12. In the novels climactic scene, Christine tells Heed, “Its like we started out being sold, got free of it, then sold ourselves to the highest bidder.” Heed responds, “Who you mean ‘we? Black people? Women? You mean me and you?” [p. 185]. Who does she mean? Is it true that blacks, or women, or Christine and Heed, have been sold and then freed, only to resell themselves?
13. Near the end of the novel, L says of Cosey, “You could call him a good bad man, or a bad good man. Depends on what you hold dear—the what or the why. I tend to mix them” [p. 200]. What kind of man is Cosey finally? What are his good and bad traits? Has he brought more happiness or suffering into the world? How disturbing is it that he marries an eleven-year-old girl?
14. What does Love, as a whole, suggest about the relationship between history, family, race, and gender? How are the individuals in the novel affected by these larger forces? What does the novel reveal about the particular historical moment in which it is set?
“A deeply affecting work by a Great American Novelist who is still at the top of her form. . . . Morrisons tender, taut prose wastes no word, no syllable, no letter. . . . A novel of devastating revelations, impeccably arranged.” —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The introduction, discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and author biography that follow are designed to enhance your groups discussion of Love, the searing new novel from Nobel Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Toni Morrison.