6 Thoughts: If Beale Street Could Talk by Jame Baldwin
Hailed as Baldwin’s greatest masterpiece, I was determined to read this book before watching the film. This is my first book by Baldwin I’ve read, the first book in which he focused on Black Love and his first and only story to be narrated by a woman. After reading words like ‘tragic’ and ‘emotional’ on the cover, I steeled myself for an intense experience before I dived in. Here’s what I thought.
Outside of being an obvious love story, Baldwin focuses on African-American family life throughout this book. The bond between Tish’s family is beautiful to read - the closeness of her parents, the protectiveness her big sister offers and the big heart of her father give this book lots of warmth. This is a stark contrast to the disjointed relations within Fonny’s family. Through this Baldwin effectively shows two different facets of African-American family life in 1970s Harlem.
Tension is weaved throughout the core of this book - as if the tension binds the very pages together. It never lets up, right the way through to the end you’re wondering, questioning, hoping and wishing that it will all turn out ok.
Tish is the narrator of this book - the only one of Baldwin’s books where a female is the voice. Whilst it’s quite right for this story to be told form her perspective, the narrative sometimes feels confused. Tish relays events that she wasn’t actually privy too.
There are times in the book when because refers to her parents as mum and day and other times where she uses their first name. This made it difficult to follow at times because I’m awful with names. I think I’d need to read it again to fully appreciate the reasons for switching as I imagine there was meaning to it.
This is an odd comment, but worth noting. This book as no chapters, there is a small section right at the end, but other than that it one consistent read, so make sure you get a book mark!