My love hate response to Toni Morrison’s Love

One book each month. I wanted to read more books this year, so I set a flexible aim for myself. I started with a book from one of my favourite authors. Love by Toni Morrison.

Love is difficult, you are forced to read between the lines of Morrison’s poetic prose… and then read between those lines. It starts off murky and confusing, like most Toni Morrison books, to later reveal a dark, beautiful story. A story of friendship between two young black girls, hatred, stolen innocence, violence, family, colourism, class.

The broken friendship of Christine (light skinned from an affluent background) and Heed (dark skinned from a poor background) was the central puzzle in the story. I raced through the book to tease out the roots of what, who, why. The answers left me disgusted and wearisome. I find Morrison’s writing so visceral, but somehow you are having to do all the work from the pieces of magic and realism she has strewn across the page. She stresses me out in the same way Gabriel García Márquez does. In a way that has you thinking about the book weeks and months after you put it down. I read Love in January of this year.

As I write this I realise now that old man Cosey (a character in Love) reminded me of Florentino Ariza in Love in the Time of Cholera. Both are characters I grow to loathe because of their actions and also because neither get justice served to them. In fact, they are presented as the protagonists, what the? Yes, this may more closely resembles reality than other versions of the story, but it is still very unsettling and unpleasant nonetheless.

So was Love about love? In a way, yes. Friendship is elevated above romantic love in a way that is uncommon and honestly refreshing. An unspoken knowing, trust and care for another human just because. The rest of the book is mainly about the corruption of love.

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