Book Reviews

Jazz by Toni Morrison

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List Price: £3.99


Kindle Edition: 256 Pages.

Published: 04 September 2014 by Vintage Digital

Edition: New Ed



Joe Trace – in his fifties, door-to-door salesman of Cleopatra beauty products, erstwhile devoted husband – shoots dead his lover of three months, the impetuous, eighteen-year-old Dorcas. At the funeral, his determined, hard-working wife, Violet, who is given to stumbling into dark mental cracks, tries with a knife to disfigure the corpse. Passionate and profound, Jazz brings us back and forth in time, in a narrative assembled from the hopes, fears and realities of black urban life.


4.0 Stars4.0 Stars4.0 Stars4.0 Stars  by Anne

New York on the 1920s

The story is set in New York in the 1920s and starts with the murder of a young woman by the man who had had her as his mistress. The author uses this as a starting point and tells what happened to Joe and his wife and all those connected with the girl after the murder as well as retracing their steps into the past so that we understand how they came to be in their current position. I have to say that the narrative thread moved around a lot and I wasn’t always sure exactly who I was following and in what time period – this wasn’t helped by the fact that the author often retells the same events from different points of view.

All the characters have started somewhere else and have moved to the city and been changed by the way of life and its rhythm. Toni Morrison uses the image of jazz music and of city life to reflect change and the parts of the book set in Harlem are brittle and rapidly changing. The parts of the book set in the country and in the south are written in a different way and reflect a more leisurely but poorer life. The writing style is an important part of the book.

The author’s message becomes clear by the end and that is that whatever the city does the history of these people is rooted in slavery, poverty and oppression, and that they have to know this before they can truly understand and love one another. The backstories of the characters can often be very emotional but the book expresses a hope for the future based on the city life.

I thought this book was easier to read than “Beloved” although a lot less harrowing. I did find the narrative style confusing but I enjoyed the way that the author tied up all the storylines by the end.

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