I have read this book twice and both times, to my regret, I have failed to write about it in any detail immediately after reading it. Perhaps it’s because the book itself is so complex and masterful that I have barely known where to start. I still don’t. There were more than twenty years between my two readings, so on my re-reading, it was as if I were coming to the book for the first time. I was just as impressed the second time as I had been the first. After reading some pretty mediocre writing recently, it was like handing myself over to someone who can really write. I love books that have a circular structure, where the actions in the opening pages are mirrored in the last. The book opens with Robert Smith, the insurance agent, jumping from the roof of Mercy Hospital in 1931, and it ends with Macon Dead Jr. making his own leap. In between these two flights, Morrison takes us on a Quest novel from the northern states of America to the south in Virginia – the opposite direction to the flight from slavery- and across American history from Reconstruction through to the Civil Rights movement.
The book is too complex, and too much time has elapsed for me to write about it. Suffice to say that it is a book that merits reading and re-reading and reading once again. It combines magic realism with real-life historical events; it is a meditation on naming and the loss of names; it reflects folk-knowledge and music- there is just so much here, layer upon layer. It is magnificent.
My rating: 10/10
Sourced from: Readings. My own print copy
Read because: Ivanhoe Reading Circle March 2022 book.