Beloved (Review)

October 27, 2010

Book cover for "Beloved" by Toni Morrison.Title: Beloved

Author: Toni Morrison

Publication Year: 1987

Pages: 288

Genre: Fiction

Source: Borrowed from my classroom

From the cover:

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Toni Morrison’s Beloved is a spellbinding and dazzlingly innovative portrait of a woman haunted by the past.

Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has borne the unthinkable and not gone mad, yet she is still held captive by memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Meanwhile Sethe’s house has long been troubled by the angry, destructive ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.

Sethe works at beating back the past, but it makes itself heard and felt incessantly in her memory and in the lives of those around her. When a mysterious teenage girl arrives, calling herself Beloved, Sethe’s terrible secret explodes into the present.

Combining the visionary power of legend with the unassailable truth of history, Morrison’s unforgettable novel is one of the great and enduring works of American literature.

I’ve been putting off writing this review, in large part because I’m finding it really difficult to decide what to say.

Here goes.

Even though I’ve heard a lot about how fantastic Beloved is, I never really knew what it was about, even when I decided to bring it home for the read-a-thon a few weekends ago. I knew vaguely that it had to do with slavery and racism in the United States, but somehow I had missed out on the dead-baby-haunting-her-mother’s-house part.

How did I miss that?

Once I got my head around that plot twist, I mostly enjoyed Beloved. I have a soft spot for books written about this period in American (and, I suppose, Canadian) history, particularly when they are written from the “coloured” side of the story. I also really love reading stories about slavery from the woman’s perspective, so that was an added bonus.

The most difficult part of reading this book, for me, was trying to figure out what on earth was going on with the ghost/baby/ghost?/mystery-girl. I had a really hard time trying to figure out whether the girl was a ghost or just a figment of people’s imaginations or an imposter or … who freaking knows. I’m not sure if it was supposed to be confusing or not, but it definitely was for me. Enough to hamper my enjoyment of the book.

But, in the end, I found Beloved extremely powerful, even with the difficulties while reading it. I might not have read it had I known about the ghost aspect of the story ahead of time, so I’m glad that I didn’t know and that I just plunged into it. Morrison’s novel is heartwrenching and compelling; I found it very hard to put down.

Rating:

6 Comments

  • Anna October 28, 2010 at 10:10 am

    I found the movie just as confusing, but for some reason, the story just works. I read this book in college, and it prompted me to read more of Morrison’s work.

  • Amy October 28, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    This is different than what I was expecting it to be about as well. Sounds interesting though…

  • Teacher/Learner October 28, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    I also didn’t know much about this book until I read your review 🙂 I’ve read Song of Solomon & it had some disturbing elements, too, but such vivid language.

  • Jessica October 29, 2010 at 10:12 am

    This was one of the most differcult reviews I have ever had to write – I just didnt know where to even start. Very powerful with so many themes running throughout that its differcult to explain to people what its about.

  • Cindy Swanson October 31, 2010 at 12:48 am

    I tried to watch the movie several years ago, and gave up because I found it too disturbing. I did appreciate your review!

    Since my life has been a little too chaotic lately, I’ll probably stick with lighter fare for now! 🙂

  • Amber Stults November 1, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    I read this one shortly after it came out and all I remember is the dead baby haunting the house.

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