I didn’t know what to think when I started reading this book. I knew that it had been on many must-read lists but I wasn’t exactly sure why. I wasn’t expecting it to affect me the way it did.
What I loved most about the book was the writing. It was so poetic and beautiful.
“She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her. She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight.”
“Their Eyes Were Watching God” is about a young woman’s journey to find happiness and ultimately her independence. It is interesting the comparison’s that Hurston makes between money and happiness. Janie is married twice well off. It is what her grandmother wanted for her so she could be “safe.” Janie marries into money and is consider higher in class among her people and yet she isn’t happy. Janie is bored and though her husbands love her, they mistreat her. So it is no surprise that when she finds someone that society considers “low class” that Janie find true happiness.
The book club agreed, calling it a journey of growth. They liked the power dynamics that were depicted throughout the book – between men and women, white and black, rich and poor. Some liked the sociological aspects of the novel. There are several individual communities described throughout the book and yet they all experience their own disadvantages and obstacles.
The other thing I loved about this book was the dialogue and vernacular that Hurston uses. She attempts to have the reader truly understand the dialogue by spelling it just as they would say it. Maybe because I love language, I loved it. This is where the rest of the book club disagreed. Many were critical of the dialogue. They thought it was overdone and took away from their reading experience.
Yet, despite this subjective view point, all thought it was well worth the read and some even plan to read other books by Hurston. As for me, I think I want a copy on my shelves.