There isn't much to say about Their Eyes Were Watching God that hasn't already been said. It's a very powerful story of a woman finding herself and gaining some independence from the expectations placed on her, and I just loved it. Janie's life is full of much hardship, so when she starts to realise the value that she has as a person, it becomes moving to read. The depiction of Janie's second marriage, in which she is constantly dismissed and made to submit to her husband in every way, was particularly well done, and you could feel the life flowing out of Janie as the marriage continued. When she eventually stood up to Jody in front of the other members of the town, it was a big moment. The relationship with Tea Cake was well written, and I loved that Hurston showed them as being so accepting of each other, flaws and all. Hurston never made their relationship too perfect, instead we got an honest portrayal of how two people can support and encourage each other, through the good times and the bad, and how a partner can help you to be yourself.
As I was reading Their Eyes Were Watching God, I was struck by Janie's strength. She had been dealt a pretty tough hand in life, but she never gave up, and she always had hope that things would improve. When something awful happens right at the end of the novel, I still had the sense that Janie would be able to pick herself up and continue her life in a positive way. This made me think about my own life, and the way that I approach set-backs, and in this way Janie was an inspiring character for me. I love that classics can do that, can make you reflect on your own experiences.
A lot of Their Eyes Were Watching God is written in dialect, which I thought might be an issue before starting. But actually it was very easy to get into and I enjoyed rolling the words around in my head, imagining them the way Janie would have said them. Once I got used to the dialect, I didn't even notice it.
I'm so glad the Classics Club spin selected this book for me. It's relatively short but it definitely packs a powerful punch, and it's become a new favourite.
The Classics Club: Book 23/72
My list of classics is here.
Source: Personal copy
First Published: 1937
Score: 5 out of 5