by Toni Morrison

Hardcover, 1987


Checked out
Due Oct 7, 2019



Alfred A. Knopf, (1987)


Sethe, an escaped slave who now lives in post-Civil War Ohio, has borne the unthinkable and works hard at "beating back the past." She struggles to keep Beloved, an intruder, from gaining possession of her present while throwing off the legacy of her past.

Media reviews

"Beloved" is Toni Morrison's fifth novel, and another triumph. Indeed, Ms. Morrison's versatility and technical and emotional range appear to know no bounds. If there were any doubts about her stature as a pre-eminent American novelist, of her own or any other generation, ''Beloved'' will put them to rest.
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As a record of white brutality mitigated by rare acts of decency and compassion, and as a testament to the courageous lives of a tormented people, this novel is a milestone in the chronicling of the black experience in America. It is Morrison writing at the height of her considerable powers, and it should not be missed.
Morrison traces the shifting shapes of suffering and mythic accommodations, through the shell of psychosis to the core of a victim's dark violence, with a lyrical insistence and a clear sense of the time when a beleaguered peoples' "only grace...was the grace they could imagine."
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User reviews

LibraryThing member jnwelch
Beloved by Toni Morrison is set in a rural area outside Cincinnati after the end of the Civil War, but it also frequently flashes back about 20 years to life-shaping events at "Sweet Home", a nightmarishly named Kentucky slave plantation. This is the first novel by her I've read, and I came away very impressed by her writing. The novel is an industrial strength reminder of the horrible treatment of so many blacks by so many whites during that time. "To Sethe, the future was a matter of keeping the past at bay. The 'better' life she believed she and Denver were living was simply not that other one."

Sethe is a woman in her 30's who was devastatingly mistreated at Sweet Home after the "kind" owner passed away and a relative, the "school teacher" arrived. But she's a survivor, and makes her way, with her daughter Denver, to her mother-in-law's Ohio farmhouse. The house comes to be haunted by Sethe's daughter Beloved (name taken from her funeral service), who was gruesomely murdered under dreadful circumstances. This supernatural element is treated as practical and real, not late night movie scary. Lonely Denver considers the ghost a friend, and even Sethe finds comfort in her presence.

The arrival of another former slave with romantic feelings for Sethe upsets the balance, and Beloved becomes more aggressively present. Members of the town become involved as concern rises, culminating in a reverberation of Beloved's original fate.

The effects of slavery are seen everywhere in the book, with the power wielded by whites over blacks in that time having myriad toxic effects. Sethe's mother-in-law shares the lesson she's learned from her "sixty years a slave and ten years free": "there was no bad luck in the world but white people. 'They don't know when to stop'", she said." We see occasional acts of kindness, but they are overwhelmed by slavery at its worst. There are reminders of the Holocaust - a sense of superiority justifying atrocious acts. A treatment of people as not-people. And the desperate acts of the oppressed. Even those more fortunate had not "lived a livable life. Even the educated colored: the long-school people, the doctors, the teachers, the paper-writers and businessmen had a hard row to hoe. In addition to having to use their heads to get ahead, they had the whole race sitting there. You needed two heads for that."

It's easy to see why this has become a modern classic. It realistically conveys slavery's damaging effects, and romanticizes no one, including Sethe. The supernatural element engages the reader in a new way, seemingly rooted in black folklore, with elements of magic realism. The writing is exceptional from beginning to end, including passages like this one: "There was a time when she scanned the fields every morning and every evening for her boys. . . . Cloud shadow on the road, an old woman, a wandering goat untethered and gnawing bramble - each looked at first like Howard - no, Buglar. Little by little she stopped and their thirteen-year-old faces faded completely into their baby ones, which came to her only in sleep. When her dreams roamed outside {the farmhouse}, anywhere they wished, she saw them sometimes in beautiful trees, their little legs barely visible in the leaves. Sometimes they ran along the railroad track laughing, too loud, apparently, to hear her because they never did turn around." Sethe is torn throughout between not wanting to look back, and wanting what was good in the past to come back and find her.
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LibraryThing member theokester
This book was actually supposed to be one of the books for a class I cancelled due to scheduling conflicts. It was also listed as one of the best American novels of the past 25 I kept it even after canceling the class. While it was an interesting story and a thought provoking read, I had a hard time with this book for a few different reasons.

Writing Style
The narrative was written in a close third person following very closely alongside the minds of a few main characters, Sethe primarily but also Denver, Paul D and some other characters who showed up later (Stamp & even Beloved herself). The voices used were likely fairly authentic to the voices of mid/late-1800 recently freed slaves in America. The grammar was a little mixed up at times, but generally very understandable.

The grammar wasn't as difficult to follow as the actual style of the voices themselves. Often, I was caught in a sort of stream-of-consciousness type narrative from one of the characters. Being pulled that far inside the character's head made it difficult for me to keep my bearings or perspective clear. The roundabout way subjects were treated left me confused and really slowed down the reading for me while I tried to keep the message straight. I'm not sure if this disorientation was intentional or if it's my own personal distance from this type of character that made it hard, but that was my primary complaint with the book.

Characters, Setting, Tone, etc
The characters were well created and very alive to me, especially as the book progressed. Even though the 'stream of consciousness' writing hung me up a lot, it also helped me get to know the characters better. I felt like I understood Sethe and Denver much better after getting into their heads.

The settings fluctuated back and forth for me...sometimes they felt extremely real and vivid and other times they felt very flat and clapboard/2-d.

My biggest complaint with the characters and the setting was that I often lost site of the fact that this was set in the mid-1800s in a post-civil-war/abolitionist nation just rising out of slavery. The tone of the novel was often the largest element, and that tone often didn't ring "post-civil-war" to me.

Again, it could be my distance from the subject but many times through the book, it was almost a shock to be reminded that these characters had just recently been living on a plantation as slaves. Most of the time while I was reading, my mind conjured up a more contemporary setting...people living in a poor borough in the 1900s, perhaps even the late-1900s.

Maybe that should be a compliment to the story rather than a shows that this is a Timeless sort of tale that could easily happen 150 years ago or last week.

This novel presented a number of strong messages.

The racial message was naturally there loud and clear. It came as a strong reminder of the horrific reality that was slavery in the U.S.A...and the racism that followed after abolitionism...and even today. I loved the line where Sethe comments that she has her freedom now, but she's still not free.

That sense of freedom leads into another major theme, that of Identity. Sethe and these other ex-slaves are trying to redefine themselves in a world that has chewed them up and spit them out. Beyond the slave reference, Sethe and her family have an added stigma because of Beloved. All of the characters come face-to-face with their own identity (or lack thereof) and have to take major actions to determine what they want to become.

The other major theme that struck me was that of Family and of relations within the Family. Most of what Sethe did was for her family. She was driven to escape slavery to protect and provide a better life for her family. She ran with her kids in tow to the tool shed when the white authorities came, because she had to protect her family. She went to prison for her family. She lived alone and stigmatized in a haunted house in an effort to keep her family whole. And yet, her actions also served to drive her family apart. Her sons leave as soon as they feel physically capable of doing so. Her remaining living daughter Denver is totally estranged and practically ignored by her. Going back to the "identity" factor, Sethe hasn't really learned how to be a mother and has to learn what it means to create a family in the world she's living in.

Overall I had a hard time with this book. It was a very slow read for me, often talking itself in circles and leaving me confused. Still, I found the story very interesting and thought provoking. I felt awful for Sethe and her family and for the trials they had to endure. Even though, as I mentioned above, I felt that the 'slavery' theme often got overshadowed, I was still struck by the awful fact that slavery did exist (still exists some places in the world) and just how awful it was. Even the "good" slave owners (of "Sweet Home" where Sethe ran from) were despicable and made me shrink in shame.

It was a good book, but hard to read. I don't know how good the movie was, but if it's true enough to the book, I might recommend watching that rather than trying to push through the book.

Still, it's worth reading if only to get a new insight into the world of slavery and racism that raged (and still lingers) in America and the world.

3 stars
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LibraryThing member igjoe
Once again a very popular book has disappointed me. Boring and slow. I can see the qualities in this book, but it feels like a book that you are being forced to read in high school. Over-hyped and a struggle to finish.
LibraryThing member MoniqueReads
Before I get to a review I have a story to tell. When I was growing up, I lived in a mostly white town. In fact, I think there was only one other black family in the whole town. So, my grandmother felt the need to constantly give me books written by black authors, and try to force me to read them. I would not have had a problem with it if it had not been for the fact that the books that she picked always seemed to deal with slavery. And for 8 or 9 year old me, that topic was too distressful. So, one day she gave me "Beloved" to read. Yes, my grandmother gave me, a 8/9 year old little girl, "Beloved". Needless to say, that I was so confused by the first chapter. This book is hard for some adults to read, I cannot begin to understand why she thought it was appropriate for a child. I have a feeling that she did not read the book herself but did like the concept. But anyways, I did not pick up that book until two decades later and was quick to tell anyone who asked that it was difficult and I would never try to read it again. In walks the Pulitzer Project and 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die and "Beloved" is on my TBR list.

What a difference twenty years make. I still believe that "Beloved" is a difficult read. The language and imagery is challenge. But I have to say that I enjoyed every last page. Morrison is a master with the English language. I could see the characters, the town, their past, and their present. For me Morrison made it all come alive. Now that I have really read the book, I can't remember what I found so difficult about it. Maybe my vocabulary and reading ability have evolved (I seriously hope so or the public school system has a lot to answer too).

The characters were very well thought out and portrayed. Each of the main characters (Sethe, Paul D, and Denver) grow throughout the novel. Morrison took the reader inside their thoughts and let you see their feelings and the reasons for their actions. Nothing was left to guess about. Each character had their own personality and past that shaped their decisions. It was intriguing to see how the events in the past lead them to the point where the story takes place. How these events shape how they each react to Beloved's presence.

Now for some people this will be a difficult read. While I enjoyed how Morrison was able to pact so much into the story, I can also see where it would make it hard for some. There are a lot of different things going on. A good portion of the story is dealt with through flash backs. Sethe, has flashbacks to her time as a slave and her escape. Paul D, has flashbacks to his own enslavement, incarceration, and all the hardship he had to go through. Denver has flashbacks to her lonely painful child. Sometimes it can be hard to figure out since Morrison gives you bits and pieces at a time. But I did enjoy her method, it just made me continue to turn the page.

Another thing that can be hard is the imagery. While Morrison does not go into great detail, the subject matter is harsh. And the things that characters go through are sad and difficult (it is a post slave tale). The decisions that they made at times can be unthinkable to someone not in their position.
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LibraryThing member santhony
This Pulitzer Prize winning novel is certainly not the kind of book I would ordinarily take on. Written by Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison, it can be a chore at times, but nevertheless was surprisingly able to keep my attention throughout.

The setting is immediate post Civil War Ohio, with numerous flashbacks and remembrances from the period preceding the War. Sethe, the main character, was a slave at the Kentucky Sweet Home plantation. She escaped with her children (three, with one in the oven) in a harrowing adventure, giving birth along the way. She is ultimately tracked down and due to the Dred Scott decision faces repatriation with her family. In response, she murders her oldest daughter rather than see her subjected to slavery, but is stopped before she can complete her plan to kill herself and all her children.

After the war, she lives in an old two story home that is actively haunted by the spirit of her dead daughter, Beloved. The haunting has led her two sons to flee, but her daughter Denver remains. She is joined by one of the men from Sweet Home; then a mysterious, young stranger appears, named Beloved. It is clearly the physical manifestation of her long dead daughter.

As you would expect from a novel written by a Nobel Laureate, the prose is florid and rich with imagery and symbolism. There are brief periods of stream of consciousness narrative that were incomprehensible to me. Nevertheless, the story is intriguing and much of the history is very powerful and compelling. I took on the novel with somewhat low expectations (not of the book, but for my capacity to appreciate it) but emerged very pleasantly surprised.
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LibraryThing member bluepigeon
I think it is very interesting that most people have either given this book 5 stars or 1 star.

Toni Morrison's language flows like a river. At times strong, at times slight, never overwhelmed. Dialog among characters is very well done, and just like in real life, sometimes it may not be obvious what's going on. In fact, this is perhaps one of the most interesting things Morrison does in Beloved. As readers, we visit the thoughts and stories of many characters, and in a way, we have privy to understanding their reasons. So when someone does a certain thing, it seems unbelievable almost that other people do not understand why, because we do. At a certain point in the book, the story actually develops to reveal a misunderstanding and the characters realize it and go on to rectify what they have done. But at another point, again, just like in real life, misunderstandings remain mysteries, remain prejudices, assumptions, opinions born out of a hunch. This becomes one of the drivers in the story, especially in a story dealing with ex-slaves who don't speak much about their feelings or thoughts, perhaps because they are not supposed to have any.

To say that it is hard to relate or sympathize with any of the characters in the book is a sign that a) you are very easily offended by historical facts and human nature, or b) you are ignorant of what might happen to humans or what they will be capable of doing under extremely harsh conditions (i.e. slavery, not being allowed to have sex with anyone for 20 years, rape, abuse, etc), or c) you have not really read the book. Yes, what the characters in the book do during and after their life as slaves might not be wonderful. Yes, they did not crawl under a tree and cry themselves to insanity (well, not all of them, at least,) some survived, some had sex with barn animals, some were forced into sex as well as into labor, some found love, some escaped, some murdered... The list is long, though a much much longer list can be assembled of the things slave owners did to their slaves, even the nicest ones who "listened to what they had to say."

The book and the story does a very good job of telling life how it is (I do not mean "telling life how is WAS." I do not know much about the history of slavery or the lives of slaves and ex-slaves, nor do I know how accurate the depictions in the book are of that time in America. I know enough to be able to judge that it is not too far from reality in general.) How some crimes that seem unimaginable are entirely possible given the right life, right personality, right time (or lack there of.) How not all "coloreds" agree on moral and ethical actions and judgments, and how in that regard, they are very much like "whitefolks." How being a mother means something entirely different to one woman compared to another, though it is so easy to pass judgment when one is not in the particular situation. How one charismatic person can bring together a whole community out of scraps of humans trying to outlive their past, and how a single act of violence can change a whole community. In this regard, though the book is "about" slavery and ex-slaves, it could be about any group of people who have had a harsh, unmerciful life trying to make sense of what's left. Dysfunctions arise in such a community, or in any family within that community exist in every community, but perhaps the reasons and how they come about are different.

Yet the book has hope to offer in the end. Hope that some will rise from this broken community, from the dysfunction, put together what they have learned from their grandmothers and mothers and sisters and even strange men, find work, find things to want, a life to desire... Hope that some will learn not to have to think of each day as a fight to keep the past at bay, but a day to be lived to build a future. As some other things in the book, this hope is not surging, in-your-face kind of hope, but a slow, steady trickle in the end that leaves you imagining how, from there, we got here. And how much more we have to go...
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LibraryThing member surreality
Plot: A central plot, with subplots tied to it that add the events from the past. Confusing at times since the subplots are not chronological and the point of view shifts regularly. The pieces don't quite fit together, which adds confusion that may or may not be intentional, but is distracting nonetheless. Good set-up but a disappointing ending that doesn't resolve anything.

Characters: Great characterization for some characters, while others fall flat. I found it impossible to find anyone to sympathize with - the ones who suffer are apathetic and uninteresting, while the interesting ones are side characters with not much attention paid to them.

Style: Half of the book is a great narrative, the other half is terribly overwritten. The narrative half packs a punch with its themes and the way they're dealt with. Streamlined, just the right amount of description and beautiful language. The other half reads as though Morrison decided that it's time literature happens instead of just a story, and stuffed in every technique known to mankind. There are moments when it turns poetic, but then comes so much symbolism that all joy goes out of reading.

Plus: It's an interesting ride.

Minus: It's a book that wants to be something greater, and tries too hard.

Summary: High quality, but it failed to leave any lasting impression or make me feel involved.
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LibraryThing member Karweenie
This story IS based on actual events (Morrison learned of an escaped slave killing her children from an 1850's era newspaper).

However, the novel is incoherent and confusing. Narration flips from character to character with no transition, entire chapters are written in stream-of-consciousness, by the end you're so turned off by the style that you're dismissive of the substance. Very disappointing.… (more)
LibraryThing member lilysea
Every person in the United States should be required to read everything Toni Morrison ever wrote, beginning with this book. Perhaps my favorite book by perhaps my favorite writer.
LibraryThing member stuart10er
Draining and wonderful.

I wish I could give it high marks for the writing, which was amazing and splended, vivid and lyrical, and lower marks for how staggeringly depressing and draining it was to read.

Slavery is awful, soul-desroying, for everyone involved and like some kind of old testament punishment curses us unto the seventh generation with its poison. Just awful and terrible.

So - this book is awful in the best possible way. What would you rate that? An exploration of all the terrible things that slavery does to all involved and to their children and their children's children. Painful.
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LibraryThing member MColv9890
Sorry to say I find nothing within Toni Morrison's writing that appeals to me. Personally this novel could just as easily never have existed. I realize this will anger many and confuse others, but I challenge you to find within her vivid descriptions of violence any ray of light or speck of darkness that is worth more than a few brief moments' contemplation.… (more)
LibraryThing member janeajones
I've just finished reading "Beloved" for the fourth or fifth time, and I'm sure it won't be the last time. This is THE great American novel. No one has confronted the terrors of slavery and the toll that both slavery and prejudice have taken on individuals and on our country as fully or as bravely as Morrison has. And I doubt that anyone else has the poetic gifts that she brings to her writing to make us see what has been done and what needs to be done.

If you are an American, and you have not read this book, shame on you. And what a treat you have in store for you if you dare to pick it up and engage with Morrison's vision.
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LibraryThing member OracleOfCrows
As with most of Toni Morrison's books, this one will pull you in within the first few pages. A mother is haunted by her child, but finds herself comforted by this. Many complex themes; death, grief, slavery, make this one of Morrison's best books. Full of fantastic imagery and beautifully written prose. I'd recommend this to everyone.… (more)
LibraryThing member fothpaul
This book seemed to swing between some exceptionall moving elements of poetry to intolerably difficult to read sections which chugged along at a snails pace. Every time I felt exhasperated by the text, another beautiful description or comment would come along and make me carry on reading.

The story was not especially my cup of tea. I enojyed the details of the transition from slavery to freedom and the attempts of Sethe and her fellow former slaves in trying to set up lives after slavery. I didn't particularly enjoy the ghost story part. To me it felt like the author was using the ghost as a metaphor for the ghosts of slavery, coming refusing to leave the newly freed slaves alone and ruining their new lives. This was ok as a concept, but the streams of conciousness which took place about 3/4 of the way through summed it all up for me. Just a little bit too annoying to be truly enjoyable.… (more)
LibraryThing member DaptoLibrary
After five years we have finally revisited Toni Morrison with our reading of Beloved. This is Morrison's Pulitzer Prize winning novel of Sethe, a runaway slave and her long struggle for freedom - not just for herself but for her children - 'her best thing'.

This is an incredibly moving story where we see a mother pushed to the far edge of love and hate and what it eventually does to her and those around her. Our club's opinions varied from rubbish to pure genius. A few could not find the interest to finish, but for those who did, it was agreed that complete concentration was needed to absorb this book. The story is told in fragments and rememories from a variety of characters; all heartbreaking and staggering in depth and emotion.

It was mentioned how well the book emphasised the plight of slaves and how deeply they felt their lack of freedom. Anne pointed out that that is exactly what the book is about - freedeom, and how important it is to people. All people. This book brought many topics to the surface, but our main point of discussion was Beloved. Who was she and was she real? We varied on this also. Some believed yes, she was real, others found her to be phost like, a vision to Sethe and those around her.

My opinion leans more towards the latter. Beloved came from Sethe, and her sorrow and guilt in the death of her child, and her part in it. She was written into the story from Sethe's mind, becoming real to those around Sethe, for she was as much a part of the woman as any child would be. alive or dead. But was Sethe suffering from more than heartbreak? Is it possible that post-traumatic stress brought Sethe to a point where she recreated her dead daughter in herself. In today's terms, was she schizophrenic?

But of course it is all open to interpretation. Just as Morrison meant it to be. This is not an easy read, nor a happy one. I shocked most of the club by saying I loved this book. How could I love such a sad story? Simply because it is so beautifully told. Terrible things happen in this world, but for them to be immortalised in such a way ensures that they will never be forgotten.

Tell Me This - Viti asks, "Why the supernatural and spiritual elements?" What is Morrison trying to get across by writing supernatural elements in to her stories?

A wish to provide a certain amount of superstition and cultural beliefs that have been passed down throughout the generations, therefore instilling something distinctive to Black Americans.

A style of writing that does not allow the reader to get too comfortable, thus creating a slight feeling of apprehension and a compulsion to read on.
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LibraryThing member BookMarc
Beloved is a powerful story that tells the story of a African American community struggling to attempt to create an identity and come to terms with the past tragedies that they all had to endure. The introduction of the 'ghost' in the story creates an unusual atmosphere because the reader is never really sure who or what she is. All that can be truly said is that she is Beloved.

Toni Morrison's masterful literary skill seeks to draw the reader in and make them have a true understanding on the lack of identity through various methods such as not defining who is speaking in a subtle way and identifying characters through the ghost or the past. The lack of explicit character definition forces the reader to have to ask 'who am I and what creates that identity'.
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LibraryThing member thisismebecca
"124 was spiteful. Full of baby's venom."

Summary of the Book
Seethe was a slave at Sweet Home Plantation. The Garners, who own the plantation, are nice and respectful towards Seethe and the other slaves. But after Mr. Garner dies, Mrs. Garner has to bring in Schoolteacher to help. Schoolteacher and his nephews abuse a pregnant Seethe, sell the slave Paul D. and Seethe's husband, Halle, and kills Paul D.'s brothers. Seethe manages to escape to Ohio, sending her children on ahead of her to her mother-in-law's house. However, after she arrives, Schoolteacher finds her. Still badly scarred by slavery, Seethe tries to kill her children rather than see them become slaves. She succeeds in killing her toddler daughter. The other two eventually run away and all that is left is Denver, the child she was carrying when she arrived in Ohio, to house 124.

Seethe is now haunted by the memory of slavery, the memory of killing her child, and the ghost of her murdered child. Paul D. shows up one day and is now living at 124 as well. Seethe is finally starting to relax and think there are things to hope for when Beloved shows up. Beloved is a 19-year-old girl who cannot remember her name or where she comes from. However, through a series of strange events over a span of time, Seethe and Denver come to believe that Beloved is Seethe's murdered daughter. Beloved's presence helps soothe Denver's loneliness, but brings back floods of locked-away painful memories for Seethe and Paul D. that they are forced to deal with. But when Beloved disappears because she has no identity, the reader is left wondering if Beloved is a real person, a medium to communicate with the dead, or a psychological invention of those in 124 to help them deal with slavery and its aftermath.

Thoughts about the Book
This book was a difficult read for me. First, there was a lot of skipping around and jumping between past and present events with little or no segues, which had me a bit confused for most of the book. Second, this is another book full of very intense subject matter.

There are several themes running through this book: slavery, loss, anger, identity, motherhood, and ghosts, or the supernatural. Beloved is not just another book about slavery, either. It covers very intense aspects of slavery, including sexual assault/rape and the psychological damage of slavery. Seethe and Paul D. and Beloved were physically free, but they were not mentally free of slavery. They were haunted by it constantly.

Despite the challenge of the book jumping around, I found the book to be a great work of literary art. This book would make a wonderful book group selection if you have not read it. Just take a look at the questions I have off the top of my head:

* Why does Seethe stay in 124 where the ghost of her murdered daughter is haunting her?
* How do you create an identity for yourself after being a slave?
* Is Beloved a real person, or was she a psychological invention, created to deal with the pain and loss?
* Do you think Seethe still believes she made the right choice in killing her child?
* What happened to Halle?
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LibraryThing member PilgrimJess
Given that Toni Morrison won a Pulitzer for this book and was also a winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature I feel that I should say something deep and meaningful to kick off this review but let me just say how I absolutely loved it.

To be brutally frank I found the first 50 or so pages a little hard to getinto as I struggled with the author's style which is a mixture of poetry and prose but once I did I found it spellbinding. The story revolves around Sethe an ex-slave from the mis-named Sweet Home and her daughter Denver. They have cut themselves off from the community around them for 18 years living with a ghost but when another ex-resident of Sweet Home, Paul D, arrives on their doorstep Sethe in particular is forced to face the horrors of her past and the impossible dilemma she had to face.

The story is told in flashbacks and what Sethe calls 'rememory' which at times can seem a little bewildering as they are not told in any particular order but this also forces the reader to come to their owm conclusions rather than being drawn along by the author which I felt was a brilliant concept. Through Sethe's and Paul D's recollections you get an idea the sheer brutality and inhumanity that existed on some slave farms but there is also a sense of morality and pathos about the slaves themselves and while the subject matter, to any right-minded person, is troubling I never felt it was gratuitous. It is told in a simple matter of fact way. The book can be seen as simply historical but it is also a modern ghost-story and the most frightening thing is that it is all based on fact. I don't necessarily think that it is right that whites must constantly apologise for what their forebears did in the past whether that be about slavery or our colonial pasts, mainly because whatever the society the strong have always abused the weak, but that said this a salutary reminder of the horrors of the past. But I also felt that there was a lesson for us all, and that is that we are all shaped by the decisions that we and and those around us make and that none of us can truly escape our pasts. I was so pleased that Morrison didn't give us a nice happy ending as that would have ruined it.

This is the book of sheer genious and one that I am sure that I will return to time and again, each time learning something new. This will go down as one of my all-time favourite reads.
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LibraryThing member TBRetc
Emperically, I can understand the importance and the appeal of this book. However, it just did not do it for me. The plot was hard to follow, I didnt identify with the character, I did not like the style of writing. I hate to give a classic such a low rating, but it was not for me.
LibraryThing member dawnpen
So picture history. Picture books stacked like bricks around the affluent neighborhoods in Georgia. Picture ‘at yo service’ cookie jars and reels of documentary footage on the editor’s floor. Picture them opening all the windows at the local high school because they’re painting over the graffiti again. During summer, the smart kids talk about reverse discrimination at the Taco Bell. Then they go to college.… (more)
LibraryThing member Darla
I have to admit, I approached this novel with quite a bit of trepidation. It was an Oprah's book club pick, which generally means depressing, and I tend to be leery of "highly acclaimed" books. Maybe a bit of reverse snobbishness. But I've been making a point lately of ignoring my knee-jerk reactions and trying to check things out before I judge them. And too many of the other books on the banned book list I'd consulted were either children's books (nothing against children's books, but I didn't feel like reading one), books I'd read already, or ones I had no interest in.

If you haven't heard anything about it, Beloved is the story of Sethe and her daughter Denver, who live alone with a ghost now that her mother-in-law has died and her two sons have left home. A man from Sethe's past shows up, Paul D., and then a young woman, Beloved, who becomes ever more demanding.

Through a series of flashbacks and memories, we get the picture of Sethe's life, and how and why it culminated in her killing one of her children and attempting to kill the others. I'd been forewarned about that (my daughter had to read this for a class), so it wasn't as much of a shock as it might have been.

Beloved is a powerful novel. I can't really express it any other way. It provides an unvarnished look at a period in history that would be more comfortable to forget. But if that were all it was, I wouldn't have liked it so much. I'm not one to hide my head in the sand, but I don't see the point of dwelling on the horrors people inflict on each other, either. I like to know and then move on.

It's also a story of community, and how people react as groups. Sethe was rejected by her community, not as much because she'd killed her child, but because she was too independent. It's an interesting concept, and one that applies very much to me as well--like Sethe, I find it shameful to ask for help, preferring to do without than to reach out. So the story hit me on that level as well.

But for me, mostly, it was a story of guilt, and how Sethe's guilt manifested itself (literally), and how she needed to accept help to forgive herself. And that's what really made the story for me.

I doubt I'll re-read this, at least not for a long time, but I'm very glad I did. I do intend to check out more of Toni Morrison's work, but if it's as intense as this, it'll have to sit in my TBR pile a while until I need a sink-your-teeth-into read. Any suggestions/recommendations?
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LibraryThing member ysmng
One of my favorite books. Scenes have stayed with me since I first read the book in early 90's. Strong and powerful imagery.
LibraryThing member nancenwv
It took me awhile to know what to say about this book or even want to put it into words. It is haunting and powerful. I think the other worldliness does more to impress the horror and displacement of slavery. Beautifully sad and evocative.
LibraryThing member jwhenderson
An ominous beginning: "124 WAS SPITEFUL. Full of a baby's venom. The women in the house knew it and so did the children. For years each put up with the spite in his own way, but by 1873 Sethe and her daughter Denver were its only victims." The story of Sethe and that of Beloved provide some of the background necessary to begin to understand this beginning. It is a story of the pain of slavery and death in the family, but it is also a story of rebirth and love. It is a story dedicated to the "Sixty Million and more" who paid with their lives.

The narrative moves backward and forward in time, telling the story of Sethe and her extended family while also telling of their ancestors and how they survived, and how they did not survive. Place assumes an importance like a character: “Some things you forget. Other things you never do. But it's not. Places, places are still there. If a house burns down, it's gone, but the place--the picture of it--stays, and not just in my memory, but out there, in the world. What I remember is a picture floating around out there outside my head. I mean, even if I don't think if, even if I die, the picture of what I did, or knew, or saw is still out there. Right in the place where it happened.”
But one place, 124 Bluestone Road, haunts the novel and in turn is haunted by memories of dark deeds.

The story changed for this reader when, at the beginning of a chapter at about page fifty, Beloved appeared: "A fully dressed woman walked out of the water." Where did she come from? Was she a mere apparition? Probably not the latter, but from that moment on she becomes central to the story. She may be the ghost of a child who has suffered a violent death, and she haunts the house where her grandmother, mother, brothers, and sister live. The grandmother dies; the brothers disappear; the mother takes a lover; the sister grows up. The ghost grows up too, assumes a human form, and seduces and drives away the lover. Then she takes possession of the mother.

What was important for me was not these plot points, but the way the story was told. The poetry of Morrison's prose, the striking metaphors and shifting point of view; these and the way the story of the many who were lost in the past were brought forth in those who were living out the present time of the narrative. There were also the stories that were embedded in the narrative that became part of the world of Beloved and Sethe.

The sum of all of the narrative astonished me -- at the stunning cruelty of slavery, at the death-defying endurance of love, at the sharp beauty of the natural world. Morrison’s style in this book, as in her other novels, combines the magic of Afro-American idiom, the density of poetry, and the specificity of the plainest prose. I will put this novel beside my copy of Song of Solomon and return again and again to savor the sheer beauty of their being.
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LibraryThing member DubaiReader
Too obtuse.

I really struggled to finish this book, it just seemed unnecessarily complicated. I read it for a book group and managed to get the gist of most of the book through the discussion, but if I'd been reading it alone I would almost certainly have abandoned it.

I suppose you'd call it a ghost story as Beloved died as a baby. She lives as a spirit in the house occupied by her mother, grandmother, brothers and sister. When the boys leave and the grandmother dies, we are left with just Beloved, her mother and sister. Beloved's presence becomes more and more real as time passes, until we are led to believe that she is actually living in the house.
Meanwhile the story recounts the events that lead up to the family occupying the house. They were originally slaves and the experiences they have had are, at times, quite traumatic. Unfortunately I was not always quite sure exactly what was going on, where the baby was born, what happened to her father etc.

I was sorry that this book was not more readable as the problems encountered when given their freedom are every bit as interesting as the struggles of the slaves while in captivity. I would have liked to have enjoyed this and learned from it.

I had previously read Sula by this author and only rated it 2*. I doubt I shall read any more Toni Morrison.
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