Book Notes: Sula

Sula by Toni Morrison
Read Nov 27, 2020 - Dec 6, 2020

Sula is a novel about the friendship between two Black women, in some ways very reminiscent of Swing Time, which I read just before Sula. Both books follow their heroines from childhood to adulthood, and touch on themes of race, womanhood, motherhood, and life choices. But where Swing Time gave me a sketched vignette out of a wider world, Sula feels tight, complete, wrapped with a bow, carefully and artfully put together.

Sula’s backdrop is a Black neighborhood in a small 1920s Midwestern town. The story is as much about the life in this part of town as it is about the friendship between Sula and Nel, the way their paths diverge and converge. There is a real sense of love from Morrison towards the people she writes about, no matter how complicated and flawed they might be. There is a deep soulfulness touched with touches of the fantastical, glimpsed in omens in the weather and eery natural phenomena.

One of the best piece of fiction I’ve read this year.

Book Highlights

In the safe harbor of each other’s company they could afford to abandon the ways of other people and concentrate on their own perceptions of things.

What was taken by outsiders to be slackness, slovenliness or even generosity was in fact a full recognition of the legitimacy of forces other than good ones.

The purpose of evil was to survive it and they determined (without ever knowing they had made up their minds to do it) to survive floods, white people, tuberculosis, famine and ignorance.

Good taste was out of place in the company of death, death itself was the essence of bad taste. And there must be much rage and saliva in its presence.

It was rather that they knew God had a brother and that brother hadn’t spared God’s son, so why should he spare them?

Maybe it hadn’t been a community, but it had been a place. Now there weren’t any places left, just separate houses with separate televisions and separate telephones and less and less dropping by.

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