Monday, November 3, 2008

Toni Morrison: a place out of no place

Lionel Shriver reviews Toni Morrison's new novella, A Mercy.

"A Nobel Prize winner, Toni Morrison is an American literary institution by now, and one can expect this short novel to draw plenty of admiration. For its originality, its bravery in tackling a time that's difficult to access, its egalitarian depiction of America's foundation on the unpaid labour of many different races, and its beautiful turns of phrase, it will have earned that admiration.


But strictly as fiction, A Mercy is unsatisfying. Multiple points of view over so few pages spread reader allegiance too thin. [...] As a prose-poem, A Mercy is largely successful. As a novel or even novella, it lacks the immediacy, forward motion, and brilliant plotting that has made Beloved a deservedly popular classic."

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