May, Christine, Heed, Junior, Vida - even L who cooks for them and sees everything - all are women obsessed by Bill Cosey. The wealthy owner of the famous Cosey Hotel and Resort (a glamorous black-only beachside resort that flourished in the post-war years), he's powerful charismatic, monstrous, shadowy, and he shapes the yearnings that dominate ...
May, Christine, Heed, Junior, Vida - even L who cooks for them and sees everything - all are women obsessed by Bill Cosey. The wealthy owner of the famous Cosey Hotel and Resort (a glamorous black-only beachside resort that flourished in the post-war years), he's powerful charismatic, monstrous, shadowy, and he shapes the yearnings that dominate the lives of these women long after his death. But even Cosey himself is at the mercy of a troubled past and a spellbinding woman, 'a sporting woman', named Celestial. Christine is his granddaughter, Heed her pretty best friend, an uneducated Up Beach girl from the wrong side of the tracks. The two girls are inseparable until the moment when Cosey picks out Heed, aged only 11, and marries her ('One day we built castles on the beach; the next he sat her in his lap-One day we played jacks; the nest she was fucking my grandfather-. One day this house was mine; next day she owned it.'). Forty years on, the hotel is boarded up and the resort half under water, but Christine and Heed, old women now, bound together by a lifetime of jealousy and pain, are still the Cosey girls, 'as different as honey and soot', when Junior comes walking down the street and into their lives, in her short skirts and high boots and with a look in her eye- This audacious vision from a master storyteller of the nature of love - its appetite, its sublime possession, its dread - is shocking and moving in its profound understanding of love's ambivalence, and of how alive the past can be. It peels back the layers to reflect the different facets of love, shifting from desire through sex, lust, obsession, yearning, and ultimately full circle to the power of a girl's first love that marks her forever. And the only one who sees the whole picture is L (whose full name is revealed only near the end - a word mentioned only once in the whole of this novel), who has more to do with the outcome than anyone knows.
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It's about how getting the right amount of love makes you ok and not having it makes you broken. This isn't news, but I was still amazed to think about all that can ripple out from one evil. Toni Morrison is a very gifted writer (I know I'm late to the party on that one, but it's still true).
Feb 29, 2008
I think "Love" is, by a long way, the very best of Toni Morrison's books. The book combines amazing linguistic skill with superb characterisation - every character has a distinctive voice- and yet all this is done with economy. Not one word is wasted or out of place. I enjoyed it immensely, so much so that it will now belong to that select list of books that I will re-read, probably several times, for the sheer pleasure of the language. I might add that this is not just a "women's book". My husband enjoyed it so much, that when he finished reading it, he started again from the beginning!
Oct 2, 2007
Loss of Lyrical Specificity
Toni Morrison's eighth book, Love, is about three-quarters of a good novel. Bill Cosey is the successful resort owner who rose from poverty and for whom the female characters vie and contest. There are echoes of Sula in the female friendships and resentments and Beloved in the triangular female bonding and Cosey's spirit visitations--in my view, a rather perfunctory bit of magic realism--and the writing is often beautifully sustained, but the ending seems to collapse, the dialogue descending into therapeutic mode. The narrative promises revelations of Cosey's ambiguous character, but when they come, they're of the pedestrian, tabloid variety: sins committed, secrets witnessed.
It seems to this reader that a certain lyric specificity went out of Morrison's work after Song of Solomon to be replaced by a kind of high rhetorical style. Given the subject matter, the spareness of style was justified in Beloved, but one misses the astonishing beauty of language of the earlier novels. What isn't missing is the author's acute intelligence and sly humor, but the ending to Love is problematic.
Publishers Weekly, 2003-09-01 At the center of this haunting, slender eighth novel by Nobel winner Morrison is the late Bill Cosey-entrepreneur, patriarch, revered owner of the glorious Cosey Hotel and Resort (once "the best and best-known vacation spot for colored folk on the East Coast") and captivating ladies' man. When the novel opens, the resort has long been closed, and Cosey's mansion shelters only two feuding women, his widow, Heed, and his granddaughter, Christine. Then sly Junior Viviane, fresh out of "Reform, then Prison," answers the ad Heed placed for a companion and secretary, and sets the novel's present action-which is secondary to the rich past-in motion. "Rigid vipers," Vida Gibbons calls the Cosey women; formerly employed at the Cosey resort, Vida remembers only its grandeur and the benevolence of its owner, though her husband, Sandler, knew the darker side of Vida's idol. As Heed and Christine feud ("Like friendship, hatred needed more than physical intimacy: it wanted creativity and hard work to sustain itself"), Junior of the "sci-fi eyes" vigorously seduces Vida and Sandler's teenage grandson. In lyrical flashbacks, Morrison slowly, teasingly reveals the glories and horrors of the past-Cosey's suspicious death, the provenance of his money, the vicious fight over his coffin, his disputed will. Even more carefully, she unveils the women in Cosey's life: his daughter-in-law, May, whose fear that civil rights would destroy everything they had worked for drove her to kleptomania and insanity; May's daughter, Christine, who spent hard years away from the paradise of the hotel; impoverished Heed the Night Johnson, who became Cosey's very young "wifelet"; the mysterious "sporting woman" Celestial; and L, the wise and quiet former hotel chef, whose first-person narration weaves throughout the novel, summarizing and appraising lives and hearts. Morrison has crafted a gorgeous, stately novel whose mysteries are gradually unearthed, while Cosey, its axis, a man "ripped, like the rest of us, by wrath and love," remains deliberately in shadow, even as his family burns brightly, terribly around him. (Oct. 28) Forecast: Morrison's measured pace-she produces a new novel every five years or so-does much to build reader anticipation. A full slate of media appearances (Today, Charlie Rose, NPR, etc.) and an 11-city tour will further whet appetites for her latest, which will be released in a first printing of 500,000. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly, 2004-01-26 More a tapestry than a novel, Morrison's newest weaves the past into the present using perspectives as threads and voices as color. The author's soft voice forces listeners to pay close attention; even so, the novel's complex construction, coupled with her hushed tones, will have listeners reaching for "rewind" to capture the subtle details so important in Morrison's compositions. This audiobook is best suited for those prepared to concentrate closely and wait patiently as layer builds upon layer. The story opens in the 1930s on the Florida coast when L, who narrates the story from beyond the grave, sees Cosey holding his wife, Julia, in the ocean; L feels such waves of tenderness radiating off him that she signs on to his life forever and becomes both maid and chef at his hotel. The novel winds through the lives of Cosey's other women, including his granddaughter Christine and her best friend, Heed the Night Johnson. Cosey twirls them all around his little finger, abruptly and unapologetically marrying the 12-year-old Heed. Thread by thread, the novel builds as Cosey's women glitter around him, even after his death. Morrison leaves readers with the powerful realization: neither good nor evil, Cosey was simply a man. Simultaneous release with the Knopf hardcover (Forecasts, Sept. 1, 2003). (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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