Warning; slight spoilers for one scene of the novel.
It’s been quite a while, hasn’t it?
I think one of the reasons I’ve taken so long to write about Sula is because I still don’t know how I feel about this book. A month after finishing it, I’m still trying to grapple with whether or not I liked it, let alone the deeper thoughts inspired by this slim novella.
Sula is by Toni Morrison and my copy is only 174 pages, so it’s a quick little book. It reminds me a bit of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway with its timeless narration and the period that it’s set in, which is post-WWI. Where Mrs. Dalloway deals with England and several old friends, Sula is set in Medallion, Ohio and deals with the black population in that small town.
(I’d like to mention before we go further that I’m still feeling out the tone I want these posts to take, so these first posts might be a little strange or different.)
There’s really so much to discuss in Sula that I’m stumped as to what to write about. It’s a beautifully written piece, even though the events depicted are not nearly as pleasing as the language itself.
One of the things that really caught my attention in this book was the friendship between Nel and Sula. It is described as being sudden and intense, where “in the safe harbor of each other’s company they could afford to abandon the ways of other people and concentrate on their own perceptions of things.” They’re described as being two halves of a whole.
In the later half of the book, I began to wonder if perhaps there was some unspoken, unacknowledged longing to their friendship. At one point Sula sleeps with Nel’s husband, which causes Nel’s husband to leave her with their children. Nel, understandably, can’t get over this betrayal for quite some time, but on her deathbed Sula reproaches Nel for not being able to let it go. She cites the fact that they were so close they were almost the same person, so why should it make a difference if Nel slept with him or Sula? Or that’s the general gist of what she says. This brought to mind an essay in which it was postulated that men create relationships with each other through the trade of women, however, Sula seems to be the opposite.
Did Sula want a closer relationship with Nel by sleeping with her husband? Was there something lesbian in their relationship? Something that was never mentioned and never consummated? Some deeper love? The very last page of the book convinces me that there was something rather sexual/sensual between Nel and Sula. Some deep longing that they never understood.
There are a few spoilers in this post but not many. I’ll attempt not to spoil the books I write about in my posts, but if I do I’ll put something at the top of the page to warn everyone. I’m still unsure how to go about these posts, but I’m going to attempt to make a new blog post every Monday and Friday. I’m several books ahead of my posts, so as long as I keep up I shouldn’t have a problem.
Next post: Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe.