If Beale Street Could Talk
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The main story in this short novel is about Tish and Fonny, childhood sweethearts. Tish mentions that others tease them about being like Romeo and Juliet, without realising that that implies a tragedy. It starts with a dramatic event: Tish telling Fonny that she is expecting their child, the problem being that he is in prison. At first we don’t know why, but the events leading up to Fonny’s attest gradually unfold.
p.12: “Being in trouble can have a funny effect on the mind. I don’t know if I can explain this. You go through some days and you seem to be hearing people and you seem to be talking to them and you seem to be doing your work, or, at least, your work gets done; but you haven’t seen or heard a soul and if someone had asked you what you have done that day you’d have to think a while before you could answer. But, at the same time, and even on the self-same day - and this is what’s hard to explain - you see people like you never saw them before. They shine as bright as a razor.”
Talking about the first time Fonny and Tish make love, after feeling they belonged together since childhood. “We had not seen it coming. Abruptly, it was there: and then we knew that it had always been there, waiting. We had not seen the moment. But the moment had seen us, from a long ways off - sat there, waiting for us - utterly free, the moment, playing cards, hurling thunderbolts, cracking spines, tremendously waiting for us, dawdling home from school, to keep our appointment.” (p.40)
p.113: After giving up her job, Tish can always visit Fonny in jail. “It is very strange , and I now begin to learn a very strange thing. My presence, which is of no practical value whatever, which can even be considered, from a practical point of view, as a betrayal, is vastly more important than any practical thing I might be doing. Every day, when he sees my face, he knows, again, that I love him”.
The policeman, Bell, who has it in for Fonny: “If you look steadily into that unblinking blue, into that pinpoint at the centre of the eye, you discover a bottomless cruelty, a viciousness cold and icy. In that eye, you do not exist if you are lucky. If that eye, from its height, has been forced to notice you, if you/du/ exist in the unbelievably frozen winter which lives behind that eye, you are marked, marked, marked, like a man in a black overcoat, crawling, fleeing, across the snow. The eye resents your presence in the landscape, cluttering up the view. The black overcoat will be still, turning red with blood, and the snow will be red, and the eye resents this, too, blinks once, and causes more snow to fall, covering it all.” (pp.119-120)
This is not just the story of ‘two star-crossed lovers’. It involves the entire family of both Fonny and Tish as they all try to clear his name, get the charges dropped, discredit the racist policeman and do whatever it takes to raise the money to pay the lawyer. Desperate measures with dire consequences.
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
This book has been released as part of the following BookCrossing challenges:
- The Ultimate Challenge - read and release books, with extra points for a monthly theme
- Reduce Mount TBR (To Be Read) - read and release books on the TBR list since before the end of the previous year.