“Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston is the first book in this four book series. Zora Neale Hurston is a woman who has been heralded as “one of the pre-eminent writers of twentieth-century African-American literature,” according to zoranealehurston.com. The other books will be: “Dreams from My Father” by Barrack Obama, “Beloved” by Toni Morrison and “All Our Names” by Dinaw Mengestu. I’m extremely excited to start on this journey and I sincerely hope you will join me on this adventure.
I have heard many, many wonderful things about “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” I happened to see it in a bookstore, and I figured there was no time like the present to read it!
The first thing you should know is that the novel was written in 1937. This was a time when the belief that “anyone different is lesser than normal people (straight white males) ” was very prevalent, and some of the moments can be hard to read. Be aware that the language is harsh and the people can be harsher in this novel.
The second thing you should be aware of when reading this novel is that all the dialogue is written in a heavy southern dialect. I am born and raised in Arkansas and pretty fluent in southern, but I had to read some of the dialogue out loud to make sure I understood what was being said.
However, for me, the dialect does not take away from the story. The story follows the life of Janie Crawford from the age of 17 until she is well above the age of 40. Janie’s story takes place in Florida, and the reader goes through each of Janie’s marriages and the various trials and tribulations that go with them. At its very core, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” is a love story.
This novel can be difficult to read. The language is tough, some of the incidents are sad and some of the characters are not exactly likable.
I was not entirely invested in Janie as the protagonist. She is defined by each of her husbands, but I will say that Janie never gives up in her quest for love, which is definitely a redeeming quality.
I wish I could say that I was completely in love with this novel, but I just could not get invested in the story. I am by no means saying that this story is not wonderful, but it isn’t a story that I would want to reread.
If you’re doing some sort of literary analysis or something of that nature, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” would be the perfect choice; there are several different angles you would be able to examine with this dense novel. However, if you’re just looking for an easy, Sunday morning read, I wouldn’t recommend reading this novel.