Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Beloved - Toni Morrison

Published: 2005 ( first published 1987 )
Publisher: Vintage
Pages: 324


Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby.

Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Her new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.

Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement by Nobel Prize laureate Toni Morrison.


This will be more like a reaction piece than a review, because I’m not sure if I’m well experienced enough in literary criticism to do it justice. To summerise, I simultaneously loved and hated this book. As someone who spent most of 12 Years a Slave with my hands over my eyes, I found a lot of this book extremely difficult to read. Every time I picked it up, I dreaded reading it, and then couldn’t put it down when I had to. I found it both beautiful and horrifying, it was both peaceful and painful. The story and the characters are fascinating, but I had great difficulty reading it because of it’s nonlinear timeline and the language used. Morrison bounces back and forth and switches perspective a lot without warning, and I found that this made the story quite hard to follow, but I managed.

In a perfect world this would be a book that everyone would have to read, it really does hit home how appallingly cruel human beings can be to each other. I always thought I had a fair idea what had gone on in America during the times of slavery, but it turns out it was so much worse than I thought. I would definitely recommend this book to absolutely everyone as a must read, but if you’re the sort of person that was quite upset by films like 12 Years a Slave, maybe it might be best to skip this, because it is horrendously disturbing.

I know that Toni Morrison received the Nobel prize for literature the year this was published, so that might entitle this book to five stars off the bat. But personally, as a reader who finds high literature difficult to read, I’m going to give it four.
Don’t shoot me, it’s only an opinion.

Four Stars ****

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