Toni Morrison is one of the foremost female, African-American authors, and this novel shows why. Song of Solomon is an amazing powerful novel with an intriguing story-line and interesting characters. In Song of Solomon Morrison tells a story but within it she does the important thing, she gives purpose to story telling; in all her writing she is political and this novel it is no different. This novel’s main themes, like many of Morrison’s others, are African-American relationships; families, friends and community.
Song of Solomon opens in an unspecified town in the north of the USA, where we meet a cast of characters, each of whom have a story to tell. This novel eventually settles down to follow the life of Macron Dead III, known as Milkman, from his birth onward. He is the son of a rich middle-class African-American businessman who has slightly suspicious Southern American origins. The novel verges on bildungsroman as Milkman tries to find his origins. Set alongside the racial tensions of 1930s-1960s America, we see the growth of a boy into a man, and the growth of the American nation. I originally got a bit confused why we were meeting so many characters without much reason, but as the novel progresses each of the characters that Morrison introduces at the beginning become integral to Milkman’s growth.
This is one of those novels that evokes images, from the northern town and its Southside, to the southern states and the warmth of their climate. Morrison writes in a style that allows the reader to really see what she wants you to see. She also jumps around the narrative, going back to events before the birth of Milkman from various viewpoints so that he can better understand his heritage. Some of the writing is similar to African-American speech and song, a technique that allows the characters to be more representative of the culture they come from.
I think this is one of those novels that you must read with a knowledge of history in mind. Morrison uses a number of historical references to ground the novel; the murder of Emmet Till being the most important. Without a background knowledge I feel this novel will be extremely difficult to understand, I was occasionally brushing up on my history (which isn’t great despite studying American Literature at university). I would definitely recommend this novel to anybody, Morrison is one of my favourite authors and this is one of her best!