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A Mercy Mass Market Paperback – 4 Jun 2009


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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (4 Jun 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099502542
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099502548
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 136,379 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Toni Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. She is the author of many novels, including The Bluest Eye, Beloved (made into a major film), Paradise and Love. She has also received the National Book Critics Circle Award and a Pulitzer Prize for her fiction.

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Review

"Morrison is at the very height of her powers" (Daily Mail)

"Powerful, elemental... The issues Morrison explores go to the root of what humanity is. They could not be more important" (Guardian)

"Ms. Morrison's versatility and technical and emotional range appear to know no bounds" (Margaret Atwood)

"A beautiful and important book" (The Times)

"Left me trembling at the sheer brilliance of its storytelling and the unassailable dignity of its purpose" (Evening Standard)

Review

`Unsettling, exquisitely written, and deeply moving, it's an amazing piece of work' --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 11 Nov 2008
Format: Hardcover
(4.5 stars) Continuing themes that she has been developing since the start of her career, Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison creates an intense and involving philosophical, Biblical, and feminist novel set in the Atlantic colonies between 1682 and 1690. Her impressionistic story traces slavery from its early roots, using unique voices--African, Native American, and white--while moving back and forth in time. The primary speaker is Florens, a 16-year-old African slave, who tells the reader at the outset that this is a confession, "full of curiosities," and that she has committed a bloody, once-in-a-lifetime crime. In a flashback to 1682, we learn that when Florens was only eight years old, her mother suggested to the Maryland planter who owned the family, that Florens be given to New York farmer Jacob Vaark to settle a debt. Florens never understands why she was abandoned by her mother.

Florens lives and works for the next eight years on Vaark's rural New York farm. Lina, a Native American, who works with her, tells in a parallel narrative how she became one of a handful of survivors of a plague that killed her tribe. Vaark's wife Rebekkah describes leaving England for New York to be married to a man she has never seen. The deaths of their subsequent children are devastating, and Vaark is hoping that eight-year-old Florens will help alleviate Rebekkah's loneliness. Vaark, himself an orphan and poorhouse survivor, describes his journeys from New York to Maryland and Virginia, commenting on the role of religion in the culture of the different colonies, along with their attitudes toward slavery.

All these characters are bereft of their roots, struggling to survive in an alien environment filled with danger and disease.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Parvati P. on 8 Aug 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is not my favourite Toni Morrison book although I love her other works. It is beautifully, poetically written, and I was immediately drawn in and absorbed by the predicament of Jacob and the description of his home but I was confused by the constant shift in the narrative viewpoint between the four different women, two of whom appear to be no more than children even when pregnant. I was not always convinced that eleven or fourteen year old servant girls would think in such a sophisticated way.

This is a character-focused book which deals with feelings and fears and Morrison's themes of slavery and sexual exploitation. It is evocative and often touching. However I found myself going over many paragraphs more than once trying to understand which of the protagonists was telling her tale at any given point. Three stars because of this major flaw in the novel, but I would have given it 3.5 if I could because the writing is so assured and accomplished otherwise.
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You can read good synopses of the plot from other reviewers, so I won't include on here.

I had to read this book twice before I got anything out of it.
My problems with it are:
1) The "revelation" at the end about why Florens mother gave her away is no surprise.
2) Even though the book is written from the perspective of different characters, there is little difference in idiom and narrative rhythm, so one never gets a full sense of the characters: they are thinly drawn. Toni Morrison also gives little idea about how the characters actually feel about each other. There is little sense of real emotion. We know the Native American woman treats Florens like a daughter but still, there is little evidence of love between them. Also, I don't understand how Josef can go from loathing the slave owner and finding him weak, to emulating him and becoming a slave trader himself.
3)Toni Morrisson is remarkably coy about the less salubrious aspects of the book such as WHAT the owners of Florens' mother did that was so bad she'd parcel her daughter off and ship her anywhere and to anything. It's intimitated that she bore rape and abuse by male slaves (that's how she had her children) and the male slave-owner but it was the female's involvement that she wanted to save her daughter from.
Similarly, when Florens flips and attacks the blacksmith we don't find out what happened; did she kill him or not? This leaves questions unanswered which is unsatisfying.

Strengths:
It is complex and shows how slavery of some sort affected many different peoples in th developing America: white and black, male and female.
It makes one think and reflect on aspects of the story for a while afterwards.

I'd recommend it, but don't expect TOO much from it.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Like many people my attitude towards Morrison's work has often been ambivalent - a mix of admiration and apprehension. My first forays into Morrison's work were not particularly rewarding. `Beloved' remains one of the few novels where my attempts to conclude it have been abortive. Then there was the beautiful-in-parts but characteristically convoluted `Jazz'.
Thankfully, with some persistence I discovered some of Morrison's more coherent novels. For me, Toni, like several authors is at her best when she is at her most concise - `The Bluest Eye', `Sula' and now `A Mercy'.

Set in the embryonic stages of the slave trade during the 1680s when America was still subject to British rule, the novel follows the fortunes of Rebekka and Jacob Vaark and the gaggle of indentured servants who work on their land.

As is customary Morrison gives most of the characters in `A Mercy' a voice and a back-story that makes you feel fully conversant with their worldview and history before you know it. TM knows how to give even the most puzzling or unlikeable characters some humanity.
Unlike any of her other novels with which I'm familiar, `A Mercy' is not exclusively written from an African-American perspective. Morrison gives a voice to men and women of different ethnicities in some ways making the novel have a more universal appeal than previous work. Perhaps this is why I felt such an affinity for the characters and the book as a whole, more so even than the extremely poignant `The Bluest Eye'-although it comes very close.

`A Mercy' also highlights a point a friend of mine recently made. Toni Morrison's feminism is not one based on misandry. She doesn't encourage the loathing of men but instead lends her voice to the discussion of how the two sexes can and do co-exist.
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