This poetic, graceful love story, rooted in Black folk traditions and steeped in mythic realism, celebrates boldly and brilliantly African-American culture and heritage. And in a powerful, mesmerizing narrative, it pays quiet tribute to a Black woman who, though constricted by the times, still demanded to be heard.
Originally published in 1937 and long out of print, the book was reissued in 1975 and nearly three decades later Their Eyes Were Watching God is considered a seminal novel in American fiction.
©1937 Zora Neale Hurston, Renewed 1965 John C. Hurston and Joel Hurston; (P)1997, 2000, 2004 HarperCollins Publishers
"For readers who know Hurston's work, this program will be a joy; for those who are lucky and wise enough to discover her here, it will be an exceptional experience." (AudioFile)
This is the story of a woman struggling against the expectations of everyone in her life who is supposed to care for her; her grandmother, the man she wanted her to marry so she would have a "good life" but without love, and the man she ran off with to make a "better life" and what she thought was love, which turned out to be yet another disappointment. It is a bittersweet story, beautifully written with memorable, full-bodied, thought-provoking characters, and expertly read by Ruby Dee. I was pleasantly surprised from beginning to end. If you have a long, tedious project, pop this one in and you will be finished with both before you know it. Definitely recommend!
Truer words could not be spoken, when in the introduction, the narrator says, "performed by Ruby Dee". The narrator is none other than Ruby Dee, and her performance is spectacular! I listened to this book with my teenage granddaughter and we were enthralled. I remember when I first read the book while in college, how I frequently read out loud, to audibly hear the voice of the characters of the story. It is a story begging to be read aloud. Ruby Dee masterfully captures all the characters and voices. It is beautiful and mesmerizing. I loved it. This is my all time favorite audio book.
My sister-in-law and I share books, since we have similar tastes. In our latest conversation I suggested a few I'd just finished -- she gave me Their Eyes Were Watching God.
Uhhh...I have to admit, it was not one I wanted to read, and had in fact removed it from my TBR list. Why? Because I tried to watch the Harpo Production in 2005 and didn't feel it (hated it; nod to Sandy's review). The production felt like a piece extrapolated from art twisted for a motive. There was a sense of arrogance to the production, like that you feel when someone thinks they can improve on great art, and goes on to disprove that haughtiness by giving Mona Lisa a bigger smile. I feel vindicated for my harsh opinion -- I don't like to feel like a meany -- by the reviews I just read concerning that debacle:
"Catering to its TV audience, the film largely avoided the more controversial themes of race, gender, and power. "[Wikipedia]
Karen Valby of Entertainment Weekly comments, "While the book chews on meaty questions of race and identity, the movie largely resigns itself to the realm of sudsy romance."
New York Times critic Virginia Heffernan writes, "the film is less a literary tribute than a visual fix of Harlequin Romance: Black Southern Series—all sensual soft-core scenes and contemporary, accessible language."
*ouch-ouch-ouch* My purpose in bringing this up is that I had been so turned against this book I was never going to read it, and what a shame. Maybe this will change someone else's mind that turned the channel that day back in 2005.
But, when my sis-in-law said it was her favorite book of all time, I'm always excited to get a recommendation that someone is passionate about. Oh; not Proust, Nabokov, etc., those tomes that intellectuals can discuss together for years...I know they are great gifted writers. I've read them, I get it. But, I can't help but have an affection for the rare humble books that seem to be less about an author's abilities, and more a revelation from their heart. The kind of book so beautiful in its simplicity that it's a piece of the writer's soul that resonates in the reader. Those are the gems you find just once in a while; TEWWG is one of those rarities.
I'm not going to even attempt to describe the book; it would all feel like hyperbole that would cheapen my experience. 10 people can stand in front of a painting and see it differently; read a book and give a different * rating; sip a wine and give you everything from sooty, woodsy, to fruity. If I would have missed this book, I'd have missed one of the best *reading* experiences I've ever had. My caveat here is: I listened to Ruby Dee read this and that made all the difference in the world. Hurston's words come through Dee, and it was amazing. When I think back, I could almost swear my memories are from being in this place with these people -- not just listening to a book. I'll warn that in some spots it's hard to understand Miss Dee, just because she is speaking in the vernacular of another time, another culture (1937) and I don't hear well with one ear.
*FYI: I never did figure out the name...it's Tea Cake, yes it is.
I am new to audiobooks, and while I don't intend to stop actually reading, I now understand how a skilled narration can create a completely different experience for the listener, and enhance the enjoyment of a novel far beyond a simple read. It's a wonderful story and artfully written. But the narration is so well-done that I don't think I would have enjoyed the book as much had I read it myself. Highly recommended.
This book was so beautifully painful, so wondrously wrought and read with such revelation that there have been few books in my lifetime of reading that have touched me so intensely that I had to stop listing at times to ponder what I was experiencing. And no other than Ruby Dee could have possibly read this book in the manner of a revelation to the listener. Stories need to be told and this book is such telling at it's highest. Even Toni Morisson could not have achieved more!
The story itself is not gripping. It's a tragic tale of love long awaited and too soon lost. I usually avoid tragedies, but this came so highly rated that I thought I'd give it a try, and I am so happy I did.
You know from the beginning that it isn't a happy story, that the love isn't going to end well, but- despite not liking the leading man- you root for the couple and try to find a way around the impending tragedy.
The writing is heartbreakingly beautiful, with perfect dialect for the characters and breathtaking language in the narration. It combines the colloquial with the esoteric.
The narrator is perfect. She gives a rich preformance that makes characters out of people who otherwise could be caricatures and gives passion wisdom and heart to the voice of the narration.
Actually, I'm Morris's wife, Dawn, an avid reader.
I have been meanng to read this book for some time, having seen it on so many "recommended" lists. I am a writing teacher and am especially sensitive to the use of language. I was immediately captivated by Hurston's exquisite descriptions and observations about human nature and race relations. I've since bought the book so I can underline the passages I especially love.
I've listened to many audio books but have never heard a better reader than Ruby Dee. What a wonder she is, making this book come alive with her many varied and realistic voices.
I've tried to read Zora Neale Hurston before, gotten ten pages in thinking "wow, she really can write" then put the book down and never picked it up again.
In audio I was drawn in and listened happily to the end.
I think this happens a lot to me, that with the voice in my mind I could read other Hurston (or any of a dozen other authors) cheerfully.
I would recommend this book to anyone, particularly the audio book. Not only is this an amazing story beautifully written, but Ruby Dee takes the words and the story and breathes a life into them that I'm not sure I could have managed with my own imagination.
Ruby Dee can read the dialect of the characters in a natural and beautiful way that pulls the deepest meaning and emotion out of their words. The language is poetry to begin with but Ruby Dee adds beauty and emotion to the already powerful words.
This novel about a black woman in Florida in the 1930s who endures two bad marriages only to find the love of her life, and then to lose him, is beautifully written and a brilliant illumination of a time and place where race relations affected everything. Ruby Dee's performance of the characters is pitch perfect, from the snide commentary of gossipy women to the hilarious antics of men who know just how to stir each other up for an idle laugh on a summer evening. This is one of the best audiobooks I've ever heard.
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