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Paradise by Toni Morrison


by Toni Morrison

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Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
Paradise weaves a powerful mystery says the blurb on the inside front cover, but I found no mystery, just a muddle, that was alternatively heavy handed mumbo-jumbo and portentous parody. Published in 1998 this was Morrison’s first novel after receiving a noble prize for literature and so would have been an obvious choice for the book-of-the-Month main selection: perhaps someone should have read it first. It is unfortunate because the premise is an interesting one: the book focuses on one of the all black towns of Oklahoma that existed in the previous century and tells of the families that founded the town after suffering persecution from other towns.

The novel starts with a powerful opening sentence “they shoot the white girl first’ and goes downhill from there. A group of nine men from a nearby town have come out to a makeshift refuge for women armed to the teeth and intent on running them off the land or worse. They have come from the all black town of Ruby the title of the first chapter and Morrison fills in a little of the history of the town, while leaving the reader in suspense concerning the attack on the refuge. Subsequent chapters are titled from the names of the women who have lived in the refuge and their stories are told together with their connection to Ruby. The women’s stories are interlaced with the folklore of the town and their names are thinly disguised to keep the reader guessing as to who they are and where their story fits into the larger picture. The time shifts and fragmentary nature of some of the story telling makes it difficult to get a clear idea of events and this would have been interesting if the novel had not at the end of the day been so intent on ramming the themes of the book down the readers throat, backed up with some religious hokum and a desperate attempt to keep the mystery going after we learn of the events of the raid.

Pride, race, religion, misogyny and the dangers of a closed community are lumped in with mysticism, folklore and a revenge tale that struggles to make itself believable and ends up seemingly like some sort of parody. This reader felt little connection with the characters, so many of whom are little more than stock characters. Everything seems to be thrown into the mix and basically we have seen it all before and some fine passages of writing cannot save this unlikely fable. 2 stars. ( )
1 vote baswood | May 29, 2015 |
This story about race is told by the women of a town that began as a settlement of freed slaves who moved their society to a place they built out of devotion to their beliefs and the signs created from said devotion. The story is short, but is retold from each woman's point of view. Some of the women have always lived there, some have come only recently, all have a connection to the strange house located well outside of the city.

The story isn't always linear and there were times when I thought something was purposefully meant to be so confusing that you just couldn't follow it. Some of the poetic writing is just a little too cryptic to understand without some pause to think about the situation a little. Books should be that way at times, when the balance is right, and this book has almost perfect balance. In a way there is a great mystery to this book, because even though the story starts with what is obviously the end of the story, you find yourself wondering how it all came about. You find yourself reading for the writing style just as much as the mystery though. It is simply that good. ( )
  mirrani | Nov 11, 2014 |
I bought this book in June of 1999 when it was first in bookstores — I don’t know why — perhaps I felt Toni Morrison was an author I should read in order to be better-read. I didn’t realise it was the third in a trilogy (not that it really matters?); nor did I realise that I was going to find the first few chapters so harrowing that I would put the book down until 2014, when after shipping it round with me throughout my nomadic years, I thought I’d better read the darn thing and get my thirty dollars’ worth.

I’d read Beloved in the meantime, found it hard going, and this one is even more so. I’ve developed a thicker skin regards violence in fiction (have we all?) and what I found difficult this time was the following the story itself. I need to make another Goodreads list called something like ‘Can’t Really Understand But Admire Anyhow’. I’d have to read this at least twice or three times to get how all the characters intertwine, that’s for sure, though I’m in no mind to right now. Once is enough. ( )
  LynleyS | Oct 16, 2014 |
Disappointing ending. ( )
  CSRodgers | Aug 10, 2014 |
Such a compelling read that kept me immersed in its pages and world that it was hard to come up for breath. A tough book to review as I just feel like gushing over it enthusiastically! I haven't read a book by Morrison that I didn't like but I did find this one quite different. It wasn't so raw nor did it deal with such uncomfortable subjects as the other books I've read by her so far that it did make a unexpected, but pleasant, change for me. Each chapter tells the story from a different woman's point of view (though always from the third person) and this is one of my personal favourite devices in storytelling. It is a story of race, as it tells the story of a black town founded on the principles that many original black towns, after slavery, were themselves colour conscience and this specific group of ex-slaves and free men (and their family's) were very dark black, searching to settle down but refused entry to a light-skinned black town. So they found Ruby, a place that disregards "white" ways but has a special grudge against the "light-skinned" of their own race. They find their nemesis in a convent house located outside of their town which is inhabited by a rag-tag of abandoned, forlorn but independent women of varying races which the reader is never made aware of except that one is white. The book starts off with a group of the townsmen descending upon the convent women and shooting the "white one" first. Then we go back in time and the whole story of both the town's founding and present state along with how the various women came and ended up staying at the old convent came to such an ominous state suvh as where we first find them. A totally gripping read of strong female characters who escape their dysfunctional lives and become independent and bond with each other while only miles away a secluded patriarchal society grows deeper and deeper into believing its own righteousness and thinking itself above the "whitemen's" law. A stunning read. Not my favourite of Morrison's but very close and appealing to see her write something a little different from her usual themes. ( )
  ElizaJane | Apr 29, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Toni Morrisonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jonkheer, ChristienTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Want vele zijn de aangename vormen die schuilen in
talrijke zonden,
en losbandigheden,
en schandelijke passies
en vluchtige verrukkingen,
die (de mensen) gretig grijpen tot ze
tot bezinning komen
en naar hun rustplaats gaan.
Daar zullen zij me vinden,
en leven zullen ze,
en niet weer sterven.
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Voor Lois
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They shoot the white girl first.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679433740, Hardcover)

Oprah Book Club® Selection, January 1998: Toni Morrison's Paradise takes place in the tiny farming community of Ruby, Oklahoma, which its residents proudly proclaim "the one all-black town worth the pain." Settled by nine African American clans during the 1940s, the town represents a small miracle of self-reliance and community spirit. Readers might be forgiven, in fact, for assuming that Morrison's title refers to Ruby itself, which even during the 1970s retains an atmosphere of neighborliness and small-town virtue. Yet Paradises are not so easily gained. As we soon discover, Ruby is fissured by ancestral feuds and financial squabbles, not to mention the political ferment of the era, which has managed to pierce the town's pious isolation. In the view of its leading citizens, these troubles call for a scapegoat. And one readily exists: the Convent, an abandoned mansion not far from town--or, more precisely, the four women who occupy it, and whose unattached and unconventional status makes them the perfect targets for patriarchal ire. ("Before those heifers came to town," the men complain, "this was a peaceable kingdom.") One July morning, then, an armed posse sets out from Ruby for a round of ethical cleansing.

Paradise actually begins with the arrival of these vigilantes, only to launch into an intricate series of flashbacks and interlaced stories. The cast is large--indeed, it seems as though we must have met all 360 members of Ruby's populace--and Morrison knows how to imprint even the minor players on our brains. Even more amazing, though, are the full-length portraits she draws of the four Convent dwellers and their executioners: rich, rounded, and almost painful in their intimacy. This richness--of language and, ultimately, of human understanding--combats the aura of saintliness that can occasionally mar Morrison's fiction. It also makes for a spectacular piece of storytelling, in which such biblical concepts as redemption and divine love are no postmodern playthings but matters of life and (in the very first sentence, alas) death.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:23 -0400)

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As the novel begins deep in Oklahoma early one morning in 1976, nine men from Ruby assault the nearby Convent and the women in it.

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