UK Kirkus Review »
This short but very moving novel is an early work by the Pulitzer and Nobel prize-winning author Toni Morrison, first published in 1970. According to an Afterword by the author, at that time the book was 'dismissed, trivialised, misread'. It is in fact a seminal work of Black American culture, set in small town Ohio in 1941. The story grew from an incident in Morrison's own life when a friend told her she wanted blue eyes, and how when Morrison visualized how grotesque her black friend would look if she got her wish, she fell into a rage. She would not have known then to identify her friend's wish as racial self-loathing, but in retrospect she sees that is what it was. The incident vividly illustrates the status quo before the 'Black Power' movement of the sixties, and is the inspiration behind the story narrated by Claudia McTeer, from a poor but respectable family, who give a foster-home to a girl named Pecola Breedlove who is about twelve, the same age as the narrator's elder sister. Eventually it is revealed that Pecola's father, Cholly, has raped his daughter, leaving her pregnant. Throguhout the narrative Morrison's use of language and incident highlights the unfair and arbitrary gap between the fortunes of black and white Americans. (Kirkus UK)
US Kirkus Review » "This soil," concludes the young narrator of this quiet chronicle of garrotted innocence, "is bad for all kinds of flowers. Certain seeds it will not nurture, certain fruit it will not bear." And among the exclusions of white rural Ohio, echoed by black respectability, is ugly, black, loveless, twelve-year-old Pecora. But in a world where blue-eyed gifts are clucked over and admired, and the Pecoras are simply not seen, there is always the possibility of the dream and wish - for blue eyes. Born of a mother who adjusted her life to the clarity and serenity of white households and "acquired virtues that were easy to maintain" and a father, Cholly, stunted by early rejections and humiliations, Pecora just might have been loved - for in raping his daughter Cholly did at least touch her. But "Love is never better than the lover," and with the death of her baby, the child herself, accepting absolutely the gift of blue eyes from a faith healer (whose perverse interest in little girls does not preclude understanding), inches over into madness. A skillful understated tribute to the fall of a sparrow for whose small tragedy there was no watching eye. (Kirkus Reviews)
Book Review: Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison - Reviewed by CloggieA (26 Jun 2012)
The Bluest Eye is the first novel by American author Toni Morrison. It is set in 1941 in the small town of Lorain, Ohio, and tells the story of an 11-year-old Negro girl, Pecola Breedlove, who becomes pregnant to her father Cholly. Pecola’s family and environment is such that she is certain she is ugly; so convinced of this is she, that she wishes for blue eyes, believing this is the only thing that will relieve her ugliness. Narrated in part by a 9-year-old neighbourhood girl, Claudia, the perspective of young girls in this situation is novel. Some chapters detail the history of Cholly and Mrs Breedlove, giving some clues as to how this crippled and crippling family evolved. This reissue of Morrison’s first novel includes a new Forward by the author wherein she explains what she was trying to achieve. Some of the prose is quite stunning: “Love is never any better than the lover. Wicked people love wickedly, violent people love violently, weak people love weakly, stupid people love stupidly, but the love of a free man is never safe. There is no gift for the beloved." The prose may be beautiful, but as a Dutch-born Caucasian living in Australia with a limited experience of the Negro, I found it difficult to relate to this book.