Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston. Book report #7 (2019)

Vacations makes such a lovely time to read… (books 7, 8 and 9 all read on holiday.)
It took me a bit to get into this book, partly because of the colloquial dialogue but more because of the main character – I didn’t like her in the beginning, and while I felt sympathy for her by the end, I don’t think I would say that I liked her. I found the descriptions of life and society fascinating, and the commentary of the characters describing their lives and lifestyles to be much more interesting than the love stories. Even more enjoyable for me were the lyrical almost poetic phrases throughout. I was trying to mark them, but there were so many I gave up.
I felt a great deal of sympathy for the men in Janie’s life. Her first husband truly loved her, and her deception of and departure from him seemed unnecessarily cruel. The second man, Jody, gave no illusions about his plans and goals for his life and her life with him, and so her disillusionment with him after 20 years and her subsequent scorn also seems cruel as well as irresponsible; her own recognition of him as “just something she had grabbed up to drape her dreams over” says to me that the pretence was mostly hers. Her last relationship with Tea Cake also seems naive, but for different reasons. As the rebound from Jody, her intense and rewarding love with Tea Cake is destined for tragedy. At the end, when she “…pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net…and draped it over her shoulder” and “…called in her soul to come and see”, she seems at last to be taking ownership of herself and her dreams, rather than relying on her man to define her and realize her dreams.
I would imagine the book was somewhat controversial on many sides for phrases like, “Let colored folks learn to work for what dey git lak everybody else.” but overall it stays away from too much opinion. I would have enjoyed more in the story about the development of Eatonville, and the politics and culture of the times, but those elements were really more backdrop than story.
1 – title contains a body part
2 – before 1939
7 – a book by a female author
8 – a book that is being made into a film (of course it is)
10 – a referral from a fellow bookclubber
24 – a new author to me
26 – a book received as a gift


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