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A Mercy by Toni Morrison

A Mercy (edition 2008)

by Toni Morrison

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,2691172,820 (3.73)208
Title:A Mercy
Authors:Toni Morrison
Info:Knopf (2008), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 176 pages
Collections:Read, Read but unowned
Tags:17th Century, 21st Century Literature, American Literature, Early Reviewers, 2008, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Nobel Prize, Orange Prize, Colonial America, USA, Slavery, Women, Read in 2009, Literary Fiction

Work details

A Mercy by Toni Morrison

  1. 20
    White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain's White Slaves in America by Don Jordan (AsYouKnow_Bob)
    AsYouKnow_Bob: When she was out promoting "A Mercy", Toni Morrison talked up 'White Cargo' as a non-fiction approach to the ground she was covering.
  2. 00
    Little Fingers by Filip Florian (Othemts)
  3. 00
    Someone Knows My Name: A Novel by Lawrence Hill (tangentialine)

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» See also 208 mentions

English (107)  Dutch (3)  French (3)  Finnish (3)  Norwegian (2)  German (1)  All languages (119)
Showing 1-5 of 107 (next | show all)
Truly a 3.5. Beautifully prose, vivid portrayal of early Colonial America. This is a story of slavery of all kinds, love and betrayal. Morrison tells the story through many different characters, primarily Florens, an African slave who tells her story from the first person and is talking to someone we can't immediately identify. The time and place jumping can be confusing. ( )
  mamashepp | Mar 29, 2016 |
Truly a 3.5. Beautifully prose, vivid portrayal of early Colonial America. This is a story of slavery of all kinds, love and betrayal. Morrison tells the story through many different characters, primarily Florens, an African slave who tells her story from the first person and is talking to someone we can't immediately identify. The time and place jumping can be confusing. ( )
  mamashepp | Mar 29, 2016 |
Set in the colonial period, the story shifts from point of view to another and centers around a young slave girl who is sold--at the encouragement of her mother--to a settler. The mother encouraged this because she observed that the settler seemed to be a kind man, and indeed he does seem to treat the slave girl well. However as the reader sees in the lives of all the characters life on the frontier is harsh and life during those times was often marked with cruelty and injustice.
This story was a slow read for me, the dialogue and the way the reader was thrown into the middle of it made it hard to figure out was was going on, especially at first. It does tackle some tough issues, which made a good book for discussion at our book group meeting but all of the members did struggle with actually reading it. ( )
  debs4jc | Mar 7, 2016 |
(CD audiobook) Multiple points of view are flawlessly woven into a seamless imagining of early colonial American life when slaves and indentured servants far outnumbered free people in the southern colonies.

Toni Morrison narrates her own novel in a unique and captivating style, giving her words weight with poetic tempo and pauses that lend an understated drama to the story, making it compelling and a bit hypnotic.

Characters are easy to like, plot elements keep the action moving without being over-dramatic, and thematic development is masterful. You will walk away from this book knowing how slavery demeans everyone and makes all -- whether slave or not -- utterly dependent on each other. This interdependence may have the surface appearance of a family unit, but in a crisis, that pretense shatters to the detriment of all.

There is every reason to recommend this novel, not the least of which is the narration, but also the beauty of restrained prose, and the care given to its historicity. ( )
2 vote Limelite | Feb 7, 2016 |
Really a 2.5 or a 2.75. My first Morrison, but I have another one or two on my shelves and will continue. I am not a big fan of stories that are tragic every way you look at them. The stream of consciousness was a little hard to follow at times as well. This would be a good book for discussion. ( )
  MaureenCean | Feb 2, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 107 (next | show all)
The landscape of “A Mercy” is full of both beauties and terrors: snow “sugars” eyelashes, yet icicles hang like “knives”; a stag is a benign and auspicious apparition, yet at night “the glittering eyes of an elk could easily be a demon.” But whatever the glories and the rigors of nature may signify to the civilized, for these characters, living in the midst of it, nature doesn’t signify. It’s simply to be embraced or dreaded — like the people with whom they have to live. In Morrison’s latest version of pastoral, it’s only mercy or the lack of it that makes the American landscape heaven or hell, and the gates of Eden open both ways at once.
added by zhejw | editNew York Times, David Gates (Nov 28, 2008)
Morrison uses multiple narrators expertly (think also of Jazz), moving easily from third person to first, changing dictions and emphasis, fearlessly closing the novel with the previously unheard voice of Florens's mother. By doing so, she circles hawk-like around the moment of mercy, exploding its six degrees of repercussion from one life to the next, asking whether forgiveness or salvation is possible....

Although there's levity with a riotous tea party among the bawdy women who travel steerage with Rebekka, A Mercy is a sad, pessimistic novel, suspicious of the early makings of a democracy, unrelenting in leaving the unwanted unloved. And yet, the signature elements of Morrison's fiction—love turned inside out, history flipped on its head, biblical references, folk wisdom, ghosts, and an old-fashioned bloody, heart-wrenching tale—bring great relief. After the disappointing last two books, Paradise and Love, Toni Morrison's ninth novel roars across the arc of America's birth, wielding a prowess to haunt the reader as only Morrison can do.
Themes of slavery and grief, of women's struggles to escape the bitterness of the captive world, are at the center of Morrison's work. They also lie at the heart of her new novel, "A Mercy," which looks to history once again -- in this case, the 1680s and 1690s -- to explore the agonies of slavery among the settlers of the New World. Such a description makes Morrison's novel sound far too pat, however; it slights the poetry and breadth of her work. Yes, "A Mercy" is about slavery, but in the most universal sense, meaning the limits we place on ourselves as well as the confinements we suffer at the hands of others.
Morrison structures the novel in her familiar manner, giving one chapter by turns to each competing voice, collapsing time frames, seldom letting her characters directly rub up against one another, trapping each of them in their biographies. In this way, she creates something that lives powerfully as an invented oral history and that seems to demand to be taken as a parable, but one whose meaning - which lives in the territory of harshness and sacrifice - is constantly undermined or elusive.
added by zhejw | editThe Guardian, Tim Adams (Oct 25, 2008)

» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Toni Morrisonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Engen, BodilTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hoekmeijer, NicoletteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ràfols Gesa, FerranTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Riera, ErnestTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To R.G.
For decades of wit, insight and intellect
Thank you
First words
Don't be afraid. My telling can't hurt you in spite of what I have done and I promise to lie quietly in the dark--weeping perhaps or occasionally seeing the blood once more--but I will never again unfold my limbs to rise up and bare teeth.
I don't think God knows who we are. I think He would like us, if He knew us, but I don't think he knows about us.
What I know is there is magic in learning.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
EEN DAAD VAN BARMHARTIGHEID speelt zich af in Amerika tijdens de tweede helft van de zeventiende eeuw, de slavernij is nog in opkomst. Jacob Vaark is een avonturier en handelaar van Nederlandse afkomst die een bedrijfje heeft in het ruige Noorden. Hij is tegen mensenhandel, maar na aandringen van de moeder, accepteert hij toch een jong slavenmeisje als betaling. Ondanks de goede bedoelingen van de moeder voelt het meisje, Florens, zich door haar afgewezen. Ze gaat op zoek naar liefde, allereerst bij een oudere bediende van het huis, maar later ook bij een aantrekkelijke Afrikaanse hoefsmid, door wie haar leven in een stroomversnelling belandt.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307264238, Hardcover)

A powerful tragedy distilled into a jewel of a masterpiece by the Nobel Prize–winning author of Beloved and, almost like a prelude to that story, set two centuries earlier.

In the 1680s the slave trade was still in its infancy. In the Americas, virulent religious and class divisions, prejudice and oppression were rife, providing the fertile soil in which slavery and race hatred were planted and took root.

Jacob is an Anglo-Dutch trader and adventurer, with a small holding in the harsh north. Despite his distaste for dealing in “flesh,” he takes a small slave girl in part payment for a bad debt from a plantation owner in Catholic Maryland. This is Florens, “with the hands of a slave and the feet of a Portuguese lady.” Florens looks for love, first from Lina, an older servant woman at her new master’s house, but later from a handsome blacksmith, an African, never enslaved.

There are other voices: Lina, whose tribe was decimated by smallpox; their mistress, Rebekka, herself a victim of religious intolerance back in England; Sorrow, a strange girl who’s spent her early years at sea; and finally the devastating voice of Florens’ mother. These are all men and women inventing themselves in the wilderness.

A Mercy reveals what lies beneath the surface of slavery. But at its heart it is the ambivalent, disturbing story of a mother who casts off her daughter in order to save her, and of a daughter who may never exorcise that abandonment.

Acts of mercy may have unforeseen consequences.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:50 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

In exchange for a bad debt, an Anglo-Dutch trader takes on Florens, a young slave girl, who feels abandoned by her slave mother and who searches for love--first from an older servant woman at her master's new home, and then from a handsome free blacksmith.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 8 descriptions

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