Toni Morrison’s Sula

Jenny Uglow at the TLS:

The laughter of Morrison’s characters disguises pain, deprivation and violation. It is laughter at a series of bad, cruel jokes. The real joke in naming Sula’s neighbourhood “The Bottom”, when it perches on barren Ohio uplands is that, in many senses it really is “the bottom” after all. Nothing is what it seems; no appearance, no relationship, can be trusted to endure.

The two earlier novels, although they anticipate the complicated and wide-ranging concerns of Song of Solomon, explore in particular the process of growing up black, female and poor. Avoiding generalities, Toni Morrison concentrates on the relation between the pressures of the community, patterns established within families (especially the models provided by mother and grandmother), and the developing sense of self. The central figures in Sula are childhood friends Sula Peace and Nel Wright, who share all their experiences until, following the death of her mother and Nel’s marriage, Sula leaves. She returns ten years later, having grown to reject convention while Nel has moulded herself into respectable domesticity; their “magical” reunion is followed by long years of bitterness.

more here.