by Toni Morrison

Hardcover, 2003

Call number




Knopf (2003), Edition: First Edition, 208 pages


Fiction. Literature. HTML:From the internationally acclaimed Nobel laureate comes a richly conceived novel that illuminates the full spectrum of desire. May, Christine, Heed, Junior, Vida � even L: all women obsessed by Bill Cosey. More than the wealthy owner of the famous Cosey Hotel and Resort, he shapes their yearnings for father, husband, lover, guardian, friend, yearnings that dominate the lives of these women long after his death. Yet while he is both the void in, and the centre of, their stories, he himself is driven by secret forces � a troubled past and a spellbinding woman named Celestial. This audacious vision of the nature of love � its appetite, its sublime possession, its dread � is rich in characters and striking scenes, and in its profound understanding of how alive the past can be. A major addition to the canon of one of the world�s literary masters. This is coast country, humid and God fearing, where female recklessness runs too deep for short shorts or thongs or cameras. But then or now, decent underwear or none, wild women never could hide their innocence � a kind of pitty-kitty hopefulness that their prince was on his way. Especially the tough ones with their box cutters and dirty language, or the glossy ones with two-seated cars and a pocketbook full of dope. Even the ones who wear scars like Presidential medals and stockings rolled at their ankles can�t hide the sugar-child, the winsome baby girl curled up somewhere inside, between the ribs, say, or under the heart. � from Love.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member msbaba
Love is the first book I’ve read by Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison. I was totally captivated and mesmerized by the emotionally electrifying beauty of her prose and the manifest reality of her characters. The book was fascinating on first reading, but the style in which the story
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unfolds—from first person to third person, from past to present, from several characters’ differing points of view—left me confused at the end. It took me a second reading in order to put all the pieces together and finally understand and appreciate the sumptuous complexity of this tale. I understand this is typical of Morrison’s style.

Reading Morrison is an engaging, delightful challenge—figuring out the puzzle is half the fun. Now, I am motivated to read all her works, but I don’t plan to do this one after another. With this author, I think I would rather savor each book with a year or more in between. Every time I read one of Morrison’s books, I want to be captivated, mesmerized, and fall in love with her prose all over again.

If I straightforwardly tell you the story of Love (like many of the reviewers here), I will ruin the pleasure of your discovering for yourself how the pieces fit together. I will say no more than that it is an intertwining story of six women, three men, and love turned upside-down. There is a lot of lust, anger, hatred, jealousy, rage, envy, self-loathing, and wisdom mixed up in this tale. Emotions erupt off the page; what causes these high emotions from the differing perspectives of each character is part of what makes the puzzle so thought-provoking and enjoyable to figure out. Throughout the text we see the same significant events happening from the varying viewpoints of the different players involved. In doing so, we learn to understand and forgive—not only the human frailty in each character, but also the human frailty in ourselves.

I highly recommend this book, but come prepared for a rollercoaster ride through some difficult and awe-inspiring emotional territory.
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LibraryThing member siew
It’s taken me about five days to come up with a comment on this book. Even now as I type, I’m not entirely sure whether I liked it or not. Certainly, I have always loved Morrison’s work, and the subject matter that she deals with in Love is not as shocking or gruesome as in Paradise, for
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example, which I simply devoured. Nevertheless, and possibly because it’s been many years since I picked up my last Morrison, it left me on edge and puzzling as to whether this was a hit or miss.

The story revolves around a deceased hotel owner, Bill Cosey, and his coven of women - how they are pitted against each other as a result of their interactions with him. There are his daughter-in-law May with his grandchild Christine, and his widowed second wife Heed, in contest over who is the “my sweet Cosey-child” named on the menu scribblings that must pass as a will. Further complicating the brew is the fact that the grandchild and widow had been same-age best friends, when Bill Cosey had wed the eleven-year-old Heed.

Into this fray is added the enigmatic chef, L, who at times takes up the narrative in the first person, the delinquent Junior (a girl), who takes up a position in the Cosey household as Heed’s alluring and cunning assistant, and who falls in love with the memory/spirit/idea of Bill Cosey. Finally, there is the very mysterious woman named Celestial, who we never really know much about except that she is probably the only one of all his women that Bill Cosey truly loved.

But as many will argue (myself included), there is an extremely fine disparity between hatred and love, and often the two are so completely imbricated in each other that you cannot tell where one begins and ends. Morrison explores this idea throughout the book as she slowly unravels the pasts of all the women, and their constantly developing relationships with each other. Their obsession with Bill Cosey I don’t really comprehend, despite the chiefly omniscient narrator. It is as if his mere masculinity is enough for them to catfight over - I just didn’t see his charisma. And perhaps that is my problem, and the reason why I am so ambivalent; when all the conflict, love and hatred is stemming from the actions of one main source, you would expect to feel the living charisma that wrought such extreme events. To me, Bill Cosey is no Helen of Troy.

Moreover, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with L’s role as arbitrator, champion and protector of all sides, and the one character who knows all else about the others - not to mention what her single-lettered nickname is possibly meant to represent. At times her voice was more Morrison’s than the omniscient narrator itself.

The relationship between Heed and Christine was, I thought, treated with compassionate nuance. Everything else simply got in the way.
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LibraryThing member Talbin
Love is not Toni Morrison's most engrossing or complex novel, but it is a wonderful read. The story, told from the perspective of multiple narratives, describes the relationships between the women in Bill Cosey's life. Women gathered around Bill Cosey, a resort owner who catered to well-to-do
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blacks in the 40's, 50's and 60's, like moths to a flame: L, the cryptic cook who hums and observes; Heed, Cosey's second wife who came from the poorest of the poor; Christine, his militant granddaughter; and May, Cosey's daughter-in-law. Add Sandler and Vida Gibbons, former Cosey employees, their grandson Romen, and Junior, a tough girl from out of town, and you have Morrison's cast of characters. As the story evolves, we discover that Heed and Christine, who were once childhood friends, are locked in the prison of their own hatred. Romen and Junior explore all aspects of physical relationships while Junior tries to turn her back on demons from the past.

Morrison's subtext includes memory and language and how each informs our understanding of the present. As usual, Morrison's text bobs and weaves between characters, and between the present and the past. There is less of the supernatural in Love than in many of Morrison's other books - here, the ghosts and demons are memories and the interpretation of those memories. This is not Morrison's best work, but it is still an engaging and thoughtful look into the many aspects of love and it's mirror, hate.
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LibraryThing member ThatsFresh
Not one of Morrison's best works, but it's sweet none the less. A light read which deals with deep topics, which makes it worth while.
LibraryThing member HippieLunatic
Hate is not the opposite of love, as Toni Morrison is able to so clearly show in this tale of how one man has connected the lives of so many women.

The story of Cosey, a man with a deep history that infects every aspect of his being, and the women in his life, is a fascinating, if a bit surreal,
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read. The fact that clarity comes in pieces as to how the women are connected, the history of the relationships, and the definitions of love became a bit overwhelming at times. There were pages in which I felt lost, but the payback was well worth the dizziness inflicted by the rollercoaster of characterizations.

The payback I was able to get from it was a lesson. Perhaps you can't know a full history in the moment you want to, but always be open to learning another piece of the timeline... it may be an important one.
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LibraryThing member novelcommentary
Every time I read a book by Toni Morrison, I am impressed with the language, the historical perspective and the unfolding of what is often several points of view piecing together a complex but wonderful story-- certainly true here. For such a simple title, Love is anything but that. The story
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centers around a resort town, probably around the Georgian coast where Blacks could go on vacation and be recognized for their talents. Run by a man named Bill Cosey, the resort fades from its heyday as debts and loan sharks take their toll. Bill was all things to the people of the area, part father, part benefactor, part romancer, part pedophile – you name it. The most compelling subplot of many is the story of the two best friends, Christine and Heed, who now live in the remains of Cosey’s estate, hating each other and waiting to claim their stake of his will. Their friendship was pulled apart when Christine’s, grandfather married her 11 year old friend. In another subplot a young streetwise girl named Junior begins to work for Heed and in her own was becomes the catalyst for bringing this hatred to a head. There is also narration from an unnamed cook, simply called L. who has known Cosey the longest and gives us a perspective over his legacy.
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LibraryThing member sweetiegherkin
I usually love Toni Morrison's work, but I could not get into this one. Morrison read on the audio version, and I'm sorry to say she is one of those narrators who put you to sleep.
LibraryThing member Niecierpek
Heed, Christine, May, Vida, Junior and somewhat mysterious narrator, L:, are all connected to the wealthy owner of the once famous Cosey Hotel and Resort in Up Beach on the Atlantic coast in the southern US, and the most powerful man there, Bill Cosey. He personifies their longings for different
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types of love from that of a husband, lover to father, guardian, and friend, and is still the center of their lives long after his death. His shadowy character slowly unfolds through their narration.

The novel is told in a series of intertwining narration pieces entitled Portrait, Friend, Stranger, Benefactor, Lover, Husband, Guardian and Father, not unlike in Faulkner’s books, and the family history is revealed very slowly and in twists and turns. Through her characters, Morrison examines the many faces of love and friendship and how closely they can come to hate, and how our perceptions can be remote from reality. Also, how easy it is to forgive people who are wealthy.

The style is lyrical and beautiful, and even before I truly knew what the story was about, I loved listening to the language it was written in. And the fact that it was read by Morrison herself added to the tune of it.
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LibraryThing member drpeff
lots of secrets. Didn’t understand a lot including end: who is sitting on tomb in red dress?
LibraryThing member Othemts
It’s been a while since I’ve read a Toni Morrison novel, and at least this one is more accessible than Paradise which I started twice and was unable to finish. So the story here takes place in a coastal town where a vacation resort for black Americans blossomed from the 30’s to the 60’s.
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All the women in the book have a relationship with the dapper but shady Bill Cosey who ran the hotel whether it be romantic, family or employee. The main focus is on Heed and Christine, two women who live together in Cosey’s house even though they seem to hate one another (the intention of Cosey’s will being a main item of contention). I felt like a dope because I could not figure out how they were related to one another, until on page 131 Morrison made my jaw drop. Turns out Christine was Cosey’s granddaughter and when she was 12, Cosey married her best friend, the 11-year-old Heed. All is revealed in the pages that follow and brilliantly what occurred earlier in the book falls into place. The story ends with redemption as Heed and Christine rediscover the love for one another that was torn from them as children.

“Hate does that. Burns off everything but itself, so whatever you grievance is, your face looks just like your enemy’s.” - p. 33

“’A woman is an important somebody and sometimes you win the triple crown: good food, good sex, and good talk. Most men settle for any one, happy as a clam if they get two. But listen, let me tell you something. A good man is a good thing, but there is nothing in the world better than a good good woman. She can be your mother, your wife, your girlfriend, your sister, or somebody you work next to. Don’t matter. You find one, stay there. You see a scary one, make tracks.” Sandler, p. 155
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LibraryThing member katiekrug
I always seems to struggle a bit at the start of a Morrison novel. She often drops the reader into the heart of the story, introducing elements and characters, without making the connections or providing the context one needs for a coherent picture. But what she is so good at is writing a novel
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where these pieces are slowly teased out, threads of a story meet up with others, characters develop, connections are illuminated, and the reader finally begins to see and understand the complex web she is weaving as a whole.

Love took a bit longer than usual to show itself to me to the point where I felt like I was "getting" it. But once I did, the book was difficult to put down. At heart, it's about the various forms of love that can shape and distort a life, and about the opposite face of the same coin - the enmity and hatred that can do the same. It's a story of several women who orbit around one man and how they are both drawn to and repulsed by him, and what those conflicting emotions do to them and to their relationship with each other.

It is barely 200 pages in length but Morrison can do more in those pages than most authors do in twice the number.
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LibraryThing member lindseyrivers
A beautiful and captivating story about love, betrayal and friendship. This book turned me onto Toni Morrison and although often trippy, I love her and this book. A must read.
LibraryThing member MarysGirl
Brilliant story. Kept me riveted as the onion shed it's layers.
LibraryThing member kylekatz
This beautiful, heart-wrenching book seemed just a little uneven to me. The story spans decades from the forties to the nineties, leaving the eighties out, thankfully, and most of the seventies and touching on the thirties too. The characters are fully-realized, flawed human beings with beauty in
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their souls that they cannot find for most of their lives, but the reader can see it sometimes. It revolves around a wealthy man who owns a beach resort for black people at a time when businesses in the South were segregated. They have Fats Waller performing and fine dining and elegant people in the early days, but during the civil rights era, business declines and eventually it closes. A ton of women orbit this man, his daughter-in-law, his grandaughter, his second wife, the hotel cook and the receptionist and his favorite prostitute. The book is really about the women, how they fight over him and the eventual bequest of his property at the cost of their own relationships with each other. It is about friendship and love, all different kinds of love, some sublime and some sordid. My only quarrel with it was I felt that Morrison sped through one woman's story too fast only giving a cursory glance at the whole civil rights era. This part felt rushed or over-edited. It either needed to be more subtly shown, upon with that light Toni Morrison touch, or more fleshed out. The way it reads is like an over-long tangential distraction, not meaty enough to sink my teeth into, but too long to follow without more explanation. On the whole another remarkably luscious book.
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
Love is the story of several women whose lives were tied to Bill Cosey, owner of a seaside resort hotel catering to Black clientele. Cosey is dead and the hotel is no longer a going concern. His widow, Heed, daughter-in-law May, and granddaughter Christine now live in the hotel and wage constant
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battles for power over one another. Heed has also hired a young woman named Junior as her secretary to help write a book about her life, a project the other two women simultaneously scorn and fear. A woman named “L,” part of the resort in the old days, appears occasionally to provide insight on the lives of the characters.

Love unfolds in a non-linear and often disjointed fashion in Morrison’s trademark style. Reading her work is like doing a jigsaw puzzle, starting with a jumble of disconnected pieces and gradually finding the connections and binding it all together around the edge. That’s what makes her books so interesting, so I won’t reveal any of those connections in this review. Her language is exquisite, and the “reveals” expertly done. I love when a book elicits an “aha” response, and this one did that.

And yet, I struggled to identify the central theme of the work and the meaning of the title. There were many forms of love in evidence, some healthier than others. The bonds between the women were powerful in their unique way. Morrison also wove in commentary on civil rights issues. But after thinking about it for a few days, I just can’t quite tie it all together.
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LibraryThing member whitewavedarling
After reading some of Morrison's other works, this one fell a bit flat. It felt as if she really didn't have any new characters or new things to say, and was so rehashing some of what I'd seen from her before in books like Beloved and Jazz. If you like her style and writing, I'd recommend it, but
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I'd say that if you're just looking into her, you'd be better off going with Song of Solomon, which I feel is her best work to date overall.
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LibraryThing member japaul22
In [Love], Morrison slowly reveals the relationships of multiple women with each other and with a successful Black man and hotel owner named Bill Cosey. The women are his child-wife, his granddaughter, and his daughter-in-law. At heart of the novel is everyone's relationship with the deceased Bill
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Cosey, but more importantly to me, their relationships with each other. Cosey's wife, Heed, and his granddaughter Christine are the same age and were friends before Cosey took Heed as his wife. Their relationship is central to the book.

This is a brief novel, only 200 pages, and there are still things I didn't quite understand. I'm hoping our group discussion will help me sort some of it out. I also felt that, because it was brief, though Morrison put in some larger cultural issues like the Civil Rights movement and correctional/prison systems, those didn't get explored as deeply as she explores greater societal issues in other novels.

I also was a little perplexed by the title. I don't see much Love in this novel - more abuse, jealousy, and possessiveness. Maybe it was ironic.

I always enjoy and respect Morrison's writing, but this novel will rank in the middle for me. It's no [Beloved], or [Paradise], or [Song of Solomon].
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Ohioana Book Award (Winner — Fiction — 2004)
Paterson Fiction Prize (Winner — 2004)




0375409440 / 9780375409448
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