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  • Jul 13, 2014
  • Updated: 6:40am

Tar Baby

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 July, 2011, 12:00am

Tar Baby
by Toni Morrison (read by Desiree Coleman)
Random House (audiobook)

Nobel laureate Toni Morrison's fourth novel, Tar Baby, was first published in 1981; this new audiobook read by Desiree Coleman marks its 30th anniversary. The plot goes like this: Valerian Street, a wealthy candy maker, lives the good life. Married to a former Miss Maine, he has a flourishing business, a stately home and a homely estate in the Caribbean. Street employs two servants: Sydney and his wife Ondine, 'good negroes' whose niece, Jadine, is treated like a daughter by the master of the house. A dark mystery surrounds Street's son, Michael, whose story is glimpsed in absentia. Educated at the Sorbonne, Jadine is clever, beautiful and destined for a different life than her relatives. Then she meets Son, a criminal on the run from Florida. The couple fall in love, sparking racial tension among everyone on the estate. It is an extraordinary, lyrical portrait of race in America. My only problem is Coleman's reading: her voice is lovely (she is also a singer) but her narration is halting, as if she recognises the words without quite understanding them. A previous version by Alfre Woodard is rather superior, but sadly abridged.

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