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Description

Product Description

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

Sethe, its protagonist, 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. And Sethe’s 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.

Review

“A masterwork. . . . Wonderful. . . . I can’t imagine American literature without it.” —John Leonard, Los Angeles Times

“A triumph.” —Margaret Atwood, The New York Times Book Review

“Toni Morrison’s finest work. . . . [It] sets her apart [and] displays her prodigious talent.” — Chicago Sun-Times

“Dazzling. . . . Magical. . . . An extraordinary work.” — The New York Times

“A masterpiece. . . . Magnificent. . . . Astounding. . . . Overpowering.” — Newsweek

“Brilliant. . . . Resonates from past to present.” — San Francisco Chronicle

“A brutally powerful, mesmerizing story. . . . Read it and tremble.” — People

“Toni Morrison is not just an important contemporary novelist but a major figure in our national literature.” — New York Review of Books

“A work of genuine force. . . . Beautifully written.” — The Washington Post

“There is something great in Beloved : a play of human voices, consciously exalted, perversely stressed, yet holding true. It gets you.” — The New Yorker

“A magnificent heroine . . . a glorious book.” — The Baltimore Sun

“Superb. . . . A profound and shattering story that carries the weight of history. . . . Exquisitely told.” — Cosmopolitan

“Magical . . . rich, provocative, extremely satisfying.” — Milwaukee Journal

“Beautifully written. . . . Powerful. . . . Toni Morrison has become one of America’s finest novelists.” — The Plain Dealer

“Stunning. . . A lasting achievement.” — The Christian Science Monitor

“Written with a force rarely seen in contemporary fiction. . . . One feels deep admiration.” — USA Today

“Compelling . . . . Morrison shakes that brilliant kaleidoscope of hers again, and the story of pain, endurance, poetry and power she is born to tell comes right out.” — The Village Voice

“A book worth many rereadings.” — Glamour

“In her most probing novel, Toni Morrison has demonstrated once again the stunning powers that place her in the first ranks of our living novelists.” — St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Heart-wrenching . . . mesmerizing.” — The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Shattering emotional power and impact.” — New York Daily News

“A rich, mythical novel . . . a triumph.” — St. Petersburg Times

“Powerful . . . voluptuous.” — New York

From the Inside Flap

Toni Morrison''s magnificent Pulitzer Prize-winning novel--first published in 1987--brought the unimaginable experience of slavery into the literature of our time and into our comprehension. Set in post-Civil War Ohio, it is the story of Sethe, an escaped slave who has risked her life in order to wrench herself from a living death; who has lost a husband and buried a child; who has borne the unthinkable and not gone mad. Sethe, who now lives in a small house on the edge of town with her daughter, Denver, her mother-in-law, Baby Suggs, and a disturbing, mesmerizing apparition who calls herself Beloved.

Sethe works at "beating back the past," but it makes itself heard and felt incessantly: in her memory; in Denver''s fear of the world outside the house; in the sadness that consumes Baby Suggs; in the arrival of Paul D, a fellow former slave; and, most powerfully, in Beloved, whose childhood belongs to the hideous logic of slavery and who has now come from the "place over there" to claim retribution for what she lost and for what was taken from her. Sethe''s struggle to keep Beloved from gaining possession of her present--and to throw off the long-dark legacy of her past--is at the center of this spellbinding novel. But it also moves beyond its particulars, combining imagination and the vision of legend with the unassailable truths of history.
Upon the original publication of Beloved, John Leonard wrote in the Los Angeles Times: "I can''t imagine American literature without it." In fact, more than a decade later, it remains a preeminent novel of our time, speaking with timeless clarity and power to our experience as a nation with a past of both abominable and ennobling circumstance.


From the Hardcover edition.

From the Back Cover

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, its protagonist, 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. And Sethe''s 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.

About the Author

Toni Morrison is the author of eleven novels, from  The Bluest Eye (1970) to  God Help the Child (2015). She received the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and in 1993 she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She died in 2019.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

I



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 grandmother, Baby Suggs, was dead, and the sons, Howard and Buglar, had run away by the time they were thirteen years old--as soon as merely looking in a mirror shattered it (that was the signal for Buglar); as soon as two tiny band prints appeared in the cake (that was it for Howard). Neither boy waited to see more; another kettleful of chickpeas smoking in a heap on the floor; soda crackers crumbled and strewn in a line next to the doorsill. Nor did they wait for one of the relief periods: the weeks, months even, when nothing was disturbed. No. Each one fled at once--the moment the house committed what was for him the one insult not to be borne or witnessed a second time. Within two months, in the dead of winter, leaving their grandmother, Baby Suggs; Sethe, their mother; and their little sister, Denver, all by themselves in the gray and white house on Bluestone Road. It didn''t have a number then, because Cincinnati didn''t stretch that far. In fact, Ohio had been calling itself a state only seventy years when first one brother and then the next stuffed quilt packing into his hat, snatched up his shoes, and crept away from the lively spite the house felt for them.

Baby Suggs didn''t even raise her head. From her sickbed she heard them go but that wasn''t the reason she lay still. It was a wonder to her that her grandsons had taken so long to realize that every house wasn''t like the one on Bluestone Road. Suspended between the nastiness of life and the meanness of the dead, she couldn''t get interested in leaving life or living it, let alone the fright of two creeping-off boys. Her past had been like her present--intolerable--and since she knew death was anything but forgetfulness, she used the little energy left her for pondering color.

"Bring a little lavender in, if you got any. Pink, if you don''t."

And Sethe would oblige her with anything from fabric to her own tongue. Winter in Ohio was especially rough if you had an appetite for color. Sky provided the only drama, and counting on a Cincinnati horizon for life''s principal joy was reckless indeed. So Sethe and the girl Denver did what they could, and what the house permitted, for her. Together they waged a perfunctory battle against the outrageous behavior of that place; against turned-over slop jars, smacks on the behind, and gusts of sour air. For they understood the source of the outrage as well as they knew the source of light.

Baby Suggs died shortly after the brothers left, with no interest whatsoever in their leave-taking or hers, and right afterward Sethe and Denver decided to end the persecution by calling forth the ghost that tried them so. Perhaps a conversation, they thought, an exchange of views or something would help. So they held hands and said, "Come on. Come on. You may as well just come on."

The sideboard took a step forward but nothing else did.

"Grandma Baby must be stopping it," said Denver. She was ten and still mad at Baby Suggs for dying.

Sethe opened her eyes. "I doubt that," she said.

"Then why don''t it come?"

"You forgetting how little it is," said her mother. "She wasn''t even two years old when she died. Too little to understand. Too little to talk much even."

"Maybe she don''t want to understand," said Denver.

"Maybe. But if she''d only come, I could make it clear to her." Sethe released her daughter''s hand and together they pushed the sideboard back against the wall. Outside a driver whipped his horse into the gallop local people felt necessary when they passed 124.

"For a baby she throws a powerful spell," said Denver.

"No more powerful than the way I loved her," Sethe answered and there it was again. The welcoming cool of unchiseled headstones; the one she selected to lean against on tiptoe, her knees wide open as any grave. Pink as a fingernail it was, and sprinkled with glittering chips. Ten minutes, he said. You got ten minutes I''ll do it for free.

Ten minutes for seven letters. With another ten could she have gotten "Dearly" too? She had not thought to ask him and it bothered her still that it might have been possible--that for twenty minutes, a half hour, say, she could have had the whole thing, every word she heard the preacher say at the funeral (and all there was to say, surely) engraved on her baby''s headstone: Dearly Beloved. But what she got, settled for, was the one word that mattered. She thought it would be enough, rutting among the headstones with the engraver, his young son looking on, the anger in his face so old; the appetite in it quite new. That should certainly be enough. Enough to answer one more preacher, one more abolitionist and a town full of disgust.

Counting on the stillness of her own soul, she had forgotten the other one: the soul of her baby girl. Who would have thought that a little old baby could harbor so much rage? Rutting among the stones under the eyes of the engraver''s son was not enough. Not only did she have to live out her years in a house palsied by the baby''s fury at having its throat cut, but those ten minutes she spent pressed up against dawn-colored stone studded with star chips, her knees wide open as the grave, were longer than life, more alive, more pulsating than the baby blood that soaked her fingers like oil.

"We could move," she suggested once to her mother-in-law.

"What''d be the point?" asked Baby Suggs. "Not a house in the country ain''t packed to its rafters with some dead Negro''s grief. We lucky this ghost is a baby. My husband''s spirit was to come back in here? or yours? Don''t talk to me. You lucky. You got three left. Three pulling at your skirts and just one raising hell from the other side. Be thankful, why don''t you? I had eight. Every one of them gone away from me. Four taken, four chased, and all, I expect, worrying somebody''s house into evil." Baby Suggs rubbed her eyebrows. "My firstborn. All I can remember of her is how she loved the burned bottom of bread. Can you beat that? Eight children and that''s all I remember."

"That''s all you let yourself remember," Sethe had told her, but she was down to one herself--one alive, that is--the boys chased off by the dead one, and her memory of Buglar was fading fast. Howard at least had a head shape nobody could forget. As for the rest, she worked hard to remember as close to nothing as was safe. Unfortunately her brain was devious. She might be hurrying across a field, running practically, to get to the pump quickly and rinse the chamomile sap from her legs. Nothing else would be in her mind. The picture of the men coming to nurse her was as lifeless as the nerves in her back where the skin buckled like a washboard. Nor was there the faintest scent of ink or the cherry gum and oak bark from which it was made. Nothing. Just the breeze cooling her face as she rushed toward water. And then sopping the chamomile away with pump water and rags, her mind fixed on getting every last bit of sap off--on her carelessness in taking a shortcut across the field just to save a half mile, and not noticing how high the weeds had grown until the itching was all the way to her knees. Then something. The plash of water, the sight of her shoes and stockings awry on the path where she had flung them; or Here Boy lapping in the puddle near her feet, and suddenly there was Sweet Home rolling, rolling, rolling out before her eyes, and although there was not a leaf on that farm that did not make her want to scream, it rolled itself out before her in shameless beauty. It never looked as terrible as it was and it made her wonder if hell was a pretty place too. Fire and brimstone all right, but hidden in lacy groves. Boys hanging from the most beautiful sycamores in the world. It shamed her--remembering the wonderful soughing trees rather than the boys. Try as she might to make it otherwise, the sycamores beat out the children every time and she could not forgive her memory for that.

When the last of the chamomile was gone, she went around to the front of the house, collecting her shoes and stockings on the way. As if to punish her further for her terrible memory, sitting on the porch not forty feet away was Paul D, the last of the Sweet Home men. And although she could never mistake his face for another''s, she said, "Is that you?"

"What''s left." He stood up and smiled. "How you been, girl, besides barefoot?"

When she laughed it came out loose and young. "Messed up my legs back yonder. Chamomile."

He made a face as though tasting a teaspoon of something bitter. "I don''t want to even hear ''bout it. Always did hate that stuff."

Sethe balled up her stockings and jammed them into her pocket. "Come on in."

"Porch is fine, Sethe. Cool out here." He sat back down and looked at the meadow on the other side of the road, knowing the eagerness he felt would be in his eyes.

"Eighteen years," she said softly.

"Eighteen," he repeated. "And I swear I been walking every one of em. Mind if I join you?" He nodded toward her feet and began unlacing his shoes.

"You want to soak them? Let me get you a basin of water." She moved closer to him to enter the house.

"No, uh uh. Can''t baby feet. A whole lot more tramping they got to do yet."

"You can''t leave right away, Paul D. You got to stay awhile."

"Well, long enough to see Baby Suggs, anyway. Where is she?"

''''Dead.''''

"Aw no. When?"

"Eight years now. Almost nine."

"Was it hard? I hope she didn''t die hard."

Sethe shook her head. "Soft as cream. Being alive was the hard part. Sorry you missed her though. Is that what you came by for?"

"That''s some of what I came for. The rest is you. But if all the truth be known, I go anywhere these days. Anywhere they let me sit down."

"You looking good."

"Devil''s confusion. He lets me look good long as I feel bad." He looked at her and the word "bad" took on another meaning.

Sethe smiled. This is the way they were--had been. All of the Sweet Home men, before and after Halle, treated her to a mild brotherly flirtation, so subtle you had to scratch for it.

Except for a heap more hair and some waiting in his eyes, he looked the way he had in Kentucky. Peachstone skin; straight-backed. For a man with an immobile face it was amazing how ready it was to smile, or blaze or be sorry with you. As though all you had to do was get his attention and right away he produced the feeling you were feeling. With less than a blink, his face seemed to change--underneath it lay the activity.

"I wouldn''t have to ask about him, would I? You''d tell me if there was anything to tell, wouldn''t you?" Sethe looked down at her feet and saw again the sycamores.

"I''d tell you. Sure I''d tell you. I don''t know any more now than I did then." Except for the churn, he thought, and you don''t need to know that. "You must think he''s still alive."

"No. I think he''s dead. It''s not being sure that keeps him alive."

"What did Baby Suggs think?"

"Same, but to listen to her, all her children is dead. Claimed she felt each one go the very day and hour."

"When she say Halle went?"

"Eighteen fifty-five. The day my baby was born."

"You had that baby, did you? Never thought you''d make it." He chuckled. "Running off pregnant."

"Had to. Couldn''t be no waiting." She lowered her head and thought, as he did, how unlikely it was that she had made it. And if it hadn''t been for that girl looking for velvet, she never would have.

"All by yourself too." He was proud of her and annoyed by her. Proud she had done it; annoyed that she had not needed Halle or him in the doing.

"Almost by myself. Not all by myself. A whitegirl helped me."

"Then she helped herself too, God bless her."

"You could stay the night, Paul D."

"You don''t sound too steady in the offer."

Sethe glanced beyond his shoulder toward the closed door. "Oh it''s truly meant. I just hope you''ll pardon my house. Come on in. Talk to Denver while I cook you something."

Paul D tied his shoes together, hung them over his shoulder and followed her through the door straight into a pool of red and undulating light that locked him where he stood.

"You got company?" he whispered, frowning.

"Off and on," said Sethe.

"Good God." He backed out the door onto the porch. "What kind of evil you got in here?"

"It''s not evil, just sad. Come on. Just step through."

He looked at her then, closely. Closer than he had when she first rounded the house on wet and shining legs, holding her shoes and stockings up in one hand, her skirts in the other. Halle''s girl--the one with iron eyes and backbone to match. He had never seen her hair in Kentucky. And though her face was eighteen years older than when last he saw her, it was softer now. Because of the hair. A face too still for comfort; irises the same color as her skin, which, in that still face, used to make him think of a mask with mercifully punched-out eyes. Halle''s woman. Pregnant every year including the year she sat by the fire telling him she was going to run. Her three children she had already packed into a wagonload of others in a caravan of Negroes crossing the river. They were to be left with Halle''s mother near Cincinnati. Even in that tiny shack, leaning so close to the fire you could smell the heat in her dress, her eyes did not pick up a flicker of light. They were like two wells into which he had trouble gazing. Even punched out they needed to be covered, lidded, marked with some sign to warn folks of what that emptiness held. So he looked instead at the fire while she told him, because her husband was not there for the telling. Mr. Garner was dead and his wife had a lump in her neck the size of a sweet potato and unable to speak to anyone. She leaned as close to the fire as her pregnant belly allowed and told him, Paul D, the last of the Sweet Home men.

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Joseph Sciuto
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Sublime
Reviewed in the United States on March 17, 2019
Many years ago, when I was a student in college one of my English Professors, Louis Simpson (A Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet) assigned the class James Joyce''s "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" to read and write an essay on. The final part of the essay had to do with... See more
Many years ago, when I was a student in college one of my English Professors, Louis Simpson (A Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet) assigned the class James Joyce''s "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" to read and write an essay on. The final part of the essay had to do with why you liked the book or didn''t like the book. I thought about the question and was ready to come up with the usual reasons why I liked the book and then I decided I''m not going to do that. It was my last year in college and the grade I received for the class really didn''t matter to me. In answer to the question I wrote, "I loved this book. It might very well be the greatest book I have ever read. I don''t know why, but while reading this book I just felt like I was reading a great work of literature, something better and beyond anything I have ever read." Mr. Simpson loved my answer and I was shocked but over the years I came to realize why he loved my answer.

Since that time I have read many great books, but only a handful that left me feeling like Joyce''s "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man." Charlotte Bronte''s "Jane Eyre", Conrad''s "Heart of Darkness," Hemingways'' "The Sun Also Rises," Baldwin''s "Another Country," Byron''s "Don Juan," and now I can add to that list Toni Morrison''s "Beloved."

Ms. Morrison''s book transcends greatness and enters that rarefied stratosphere of the sublime, heavenly, and magical. "Beloved" is a masterful work of art that should be read by anyone who aspires to be a writer or a teacher. It is like DaVinci''s "The Last Supper." It reaches into the past, depicting the brutality of slavery, while it''s revelance remains even more powerful in the society we now live in, and like Yeats'' wrote, "Neither time, nor place, nor art have moved it." It lives forever.
213 people found this helpful
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Amanda
2.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
I wouldn''t recommend...
Reviewed in the United States on May 26, 2019
First of all, major trigger warnings for animal abuse and graphic human abuse as well. These two are the main reasons that I am giving this book a lower rating. I do think that it does have literary merit that makes it an important read. But there was some points in this... See more
First of all, major trigger warnings for animal abuse and graphic human abuse as well. These two are the main reasons that I am giving this book a lower rating. I do think that it does have literary merit that makes it an important read. But there was some points in this book that made it SO hard to get through.

I enjoyed some parts of this book but it was overall so depressing and sad that I just couldn''t enjoy it and the writing style was kinda confusing to follow as well...I would not recommend this book.
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James S. Bennett
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A truly great book. It''s message resonates louder now than ever.
Reviewed in the United States on December 12, 2014
I picked up this book because I wanted to get some perspective after the recent killings of unarmed black men by police officers. As a middle aged white guy, it was hard for me to put wrap my head around the pain and the anger felt by the residents of Ferguson, by the... See more
I picked up this book because I wanted to get some perspective after the recent killings of unarmed black men by police officers. As a middle aged white guy, it was hard for me to put wrap my head around the pain and the anger felt by the residents of Ferguson, by the residents of New York. I have friends that are cops. My Facebook wall filled with persuasive arguments in defense of the police actions. But I saw the video of Eric Garner. I followed the news about Michael Brown. Still, I sympathized with the officers, which I knew in my heart was wrong. I wanted to understand how black people in this country experience life, and starting with the shameful history of slavery seemed like a good start.

Beloved is a truly great book that lives up to the hype. Hard to put down. The writing is excellent. The story is not one of suffering, but one of persevering through the insufferable. It''s often hard to read, with the unflinching descriptions of torture and degradation. However, I''m a tiny bit closer to understanding.
334 people found this helpful
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Rosie
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Amazing
Reviewed in the United States on July 31, 2018
I purchased this book to increase my number of books read from the PBS Great American Read. I felt that I needed a better score than 33% of the books on the Great 100 list. It is beautiful. I had purchased it previously but was not able to get into if for some reason. I... See more
I purchased this book to increase my number of books read from the PBS Great American Read. I felt that I needed a better score than 33% of the books on the Great 100 list. It is beautiful. I had purchased it previously but was not able to get into if for some reason. I think a better goal instead of increasing my total on the list of the Great American read would just be to read all of Toni Morrison. I''m now two to the good. Absolutely beautiful prose, characters, plot, etc. i did need a break from reading this book it was sometimes too heavy to read straight through.
66 people found this helpful
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AP
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
So Many Things
Reviewed in the United States on December 30, 2017
I feel changed after reading this book. So complex, so painful, so painfully beautiful, such life in the telling of this story. As a Black queer womyn, I have grown tired of the handling slavery narrative. Of the laziness of its use and overuse as a point of reference. But... See more
I feel changed after reading this book. So complex, so painful, so painfully beautiful, such life in the telling of this story. As a Black queer womyn, I have grown tired of the handling slavery narrative. Of the laziness of its use and overuse as a point of reference. But what Morrison does so well is bring life to the complexities of Black life and love in the face of the worst part of American history. I would even go as far to say, it goes beyond the political. It circles down to the smallest particles of her characters'' lives and inner self-talk/workings. I don''t even know if this review will capture all that I think and feel and see after reading this book.
91 people found this helpful
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Reader2307
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
We Need Some Kind Of Tomorrow
Reviewed in the United States on February 5, 2019
Beloved is a novel about Sethe, a woman who was once a slave and is now trying to ‘claim ownership of her freed self’ in a house haunted by a vengeful ghost wanting to claim Sethe for itself. In case I’m not the only person in the world who did not know the plot... See more
Beloved is a novel about Sethe, a woman who was once a slave and is now trying to ‘claim ownership of her freed self’ in a house haunted by a vengeful ghost wanting to claim Sethe for itself.

In case I’m not the only person in the world who did not know the plot of the book beforehand I will not speak about it in detail. I wouldn’t want to spoil the book for other readers.

Beloved was only my second encounter with Toni Morrison despite having almost all of her books on my ‘to read’ list for years and I’m sorry it took me this long to familiarise myself with not only what is considered her greatest work but also a book so deserving of all the praise heaped upon it.

Morrison writes about slavery and the collective trauma it has created. A trauma that has been swept under rugs and resolutely ignored. The trauma in Sethe’s past refuses to stay hidden forever. It confronts Sethe and asks her:

1) How long will you hold on to me?
2) What purpose do I serve?
3) Who are you without me?

Finally after a harrowing almost fatal fight with her trauma Sethe needs to determine a way forward.

I love magical realism and the poetic style authors who employ it use but I did struggle with how abstract some passages of Beloved were. This difficulty was compounded by the stream of consciousness passages which were also acutely abstract . There were some parts of the book I only understood because I reread them or looked through a literary guide. Reading Beloved is hard work but it is well worth it.
42 people found this helpful
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Emily VH
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
This book reads almost like poetry
Reviewed in the United States on May 2, 2017
Toni Morrison''s writing isn''t "great". It is mind blowing. This book reads almost like poetry. It''s a really, really, really heavy story- a woman escapes slavery with her four young children, only to reach freedom in Ohio right about the time the Fugitive... See more
Toni Morrison''s writing isn''t "great". It is mind blowing.

This book reads almost like poetry. It''s a really, really, really heavy story- a woman escapes slavery with her four young children, only to reach freedom in Ohio right about the time the Fugitive Act was enacted. Her former owner comes for her and her children, and she makes a desperate decision to take her children''s lives, rather than have them live enslaved.

As time goes on, the ghost of the daughter she killed haunts their house and makes trouble in her life. She and her living daughter, Denver, try to summon the ghost, and a few weeks later a mysterious young woman shows up and basically moves in with them.

Highly recommended- take your time and read this one bunch of times. It can be really painful. But it is beautifully written and important to read.
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D&E
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
I wanted to love this book
Reviewed in the United States on May 27, 2020
Oh man I so wanted to love this book. From the first few pages you will be like “WTF is going on”? I can deal with thick slang but you can’t tell who is being talked about in the dialogue, characters are immediately introduced or talked about by other characters with no... See more
Oh man I so wanted to love this book. From the first few pages you will be like “WTF is going on”? I can deal with thick slang but you can’t tell who is being talked about in the dialogue, characters are immediately introduced or talked about by other characters with no explanation about who they are. The names are also weird and obscure. It’s so confusing, I put it down and looked up the reviews sure enough other people stay the same. I don’t know how Oprah got through this book, she probably had someone reading it for her. I wonder if the author, because she was an editor, thought she could get away with this kind of prose. It’s confusing and just awful, crap.
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Bryn Griffith
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The close connection between love and guilt
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 8, 2019
This is an extremely powerful and, at times, troubling book. At the heart of the story is the returning spirit of a young woman who was murdered by her black slave mother in order to prevent her from ending up in the clutches of a slave owner. The relationship between...See more
This is an extremely powerful and, at times, troubling book. At the heart of the story is the returning spirit of a young woman who was murdered by her black slave mother in order to prevent her from ending up in the clutches of a slave owner. The relationship between mother and child is extremely conflicted; power rests with the returning child, I felt, because of the mother''s guilt. Around this central theme are a number of close family members and slaves with common histories. All of the characters are portrayed with powerfully emotional lives that really made me, a white male in his 60s, get some sense of the tortured lives imposed on such individuals. I can only imagine the impact of this book on those with an African American heritage. The book is not an easy read as the story is told in a non-linear fashion and through the eyes of multiple characters. This keeps the reader of their toes, but makes the story ultimately a more involving read. I can understand why this is considered a classic.
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Reader
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Well worth sticking with it.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 1, 2019
Beloved by Toni Morrison 1931 - 2019. Book one in the Toni Morrison trilogy. Admittedly It took me a bit of time to get into this book. Though once I got the gist of the lingo and the "tongue" in my head, it was a joy to read and difficult to put the book down. The book is...See more
Beloved by Toni Morrison 1931 - 2019. Book one in the Toni Morrison trilogy. Admittedly It took me a bit of time to get into this book. Though once I got the gist of the lingo and the "tongue" in my head, it was a joy to read and difficult to put the book down. The book is set in Cincinnati 1873 and the story is based Seethe, who is a runaway slave, trying to get herself, her children, friend''s and husband to his mother''s a free slave, where Seethe''s cannat least raise her children in a free society and can offer sanctuary. The story highlights the brutality of the slave in order to give luxury, lust and riches to the white man. What sacrifices, especially a slave mother would do to protect her children and highlight the discrimination and lynching even after slavery was abolished. In this story, we follow Seethe, a slave, wife and a mother of four children battle to get all to the safety of her mother in law named Baby Suggs - freed by her owner Mr Garner and paid for by her Son, Halle, Seethe husband. Living on a farm called sweet home, the owners Mr and Mrs Garner are kind and reasonable to the slave''s they have. Until things change and another master comes to the farm with strict and brutal tactics, a plan is made by the slaves to escape to freedom. The escape doesn''t go to plan to everyone. Whitemen are patrolling to capture runaways. When Seethe see''s them at Baby Suggs house and knows that no place is a safe and free place, she takes action to keep her babies safe and free from the pain and trauma a slave life brings, though when her baby dies, Seethe is haunted for the rest of her life. When Paul D, a fellow companion (slave) from sweet home tracks down Seethe many years later, he manages to banish the haunting, though Seethe free in body, is not free in spirit and mind and is still haunted by her past. However, Beloved turns up and Seethe, it seems, is able to put her demons to rest after the pain of bringing them to the surface. I loved the story, the writing style and use of language and description. Reaching the end of the story, you do wonder if Beloved was everyone''s haunting, a life lesson and a mutual understanding of the sacrifices made by Seethe. As Beloved seemed to open everyone''s eye''s, open up painful memories that still enslave Seethe and shackle her to the experience of being a slave. Or was Beloved plotting something else to punish Seethe further for allowing her to justify Seethe''s actions. It''s a very thought provoking story! Toni Morrison has also written The Bluest Eye Sula Song of Solomon Tar Baby Beloved #1 Jazz #2 Paradise #3 Love A Mercy Home God Help the Child
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Vigilantius
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A profound pleasure to read such a truly great modern novel
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 10, 2014
What a pleasure to read a great modern novel. The American Toni Morrison won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. Beloved, her fifth book, was inspired by a true story about a slave-mother in the mid-nineteenth century (called Sethe in the novel), who escaped across the...See more
What a pleasure to read a great modern novel. The American Toni Morrison won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. Beloved, her fifth book, was inspired by a true story about a slave-mother in the mid-nineteenth century (called Sethe in the novel), who escaped across the river Ohio to the free city of Cincinnati, just before the Civil War. There are four principal voices, about whom we learn as much from how they talk as what they say. There is a shocking central narrative, which darts back and forth in time like the unfolding of a shared trauma in group psychoanalytic sessions. The African-Americans who tell the story are profoundly instinctive and generally terrified of ''whitepeople'', who are usually seen as non-human. Other characters are also brought to life, such as the slave-owner, ''Schoolteacher'', or the old-timer and ex-slave, ''Stamp Paid''. Though she is not the pivotal character in the story, Sethe''s daughter Denver became (for me) the anchor, as the most sympathetic and rounded person, who eventually frees herself from mental subjugation. Ghosts are flesh and blood entities in Beloved. Sethe''s daughter (called Beloved) reappears after many years, despite having been killed when an infant by her mother, who did not want her baby to be captured by a vicious slave-owner. This incident led to Sethe and her family being shunned by their community. As in South Africa under apartheid, oppression can lead not to solidarity amongst the oppressed but to fierce mutual suspicion. This feels more realistic than the somewhat simplistic characterisations in the Oscar-winning film, 12 Years A Slave. Occasionally the novel can be obscure. But this minor fault is massively outweighed by the imaginative writing which brings to life the hemmed-in and yet freely-roaming mindsets of the central characters.
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Mrs. M. J. Murray
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A haunting read on many levels
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 4, 2020
The writing is just beautiful, so musical and evocative. Something of a ghost story and set against the previous slave history of the characters. As someone trying to educate herself in the light of recent events I found this book extremely enlightening. Gone With The Wind...See more
The writing is just beautiful, so musical and evocative. Something of a ghost story and set against the previous slave history of the characters. As someone trying to educate herself in the light of recent events I found this book extremely enlightening. Gone With The Wind it ain’t. But the treatment of slaves by some of their masters beggars belief, which is not to say it’s untrue, but these people must be psychotic to treat another human being like this. One white character berated another for whipping his dog beyond endurance but whipping a slave doesn’t seem to fit into his code. As a white British reader I was horrified at the treatment of the women as sex objects but the slave men relieved themselves by using cows which was unjudged by the author. Arguably the white owners used the slave women no better. The detail of this was unknown to me so it’s important we hear people’s history. But the story is just beautiful and I loved it. It’s also worth remarking that not all the whites are villains, some do heroic work. However the author takes the view that they were still slave owners, and those that weren’t seem to be viewed as virtue signalling do gooders. In light of the early black experience in America I suppose such a cynical viewpoint is only to be expected.
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R. A. Walker
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A compelling story but not a masterpiece
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 16, 2020
I read this book because it was listed in a recent television programme as “one of the most influential books of the 20th century”, and on its back cover as “… an American masterpiece”. Sadly, and despite Toni Morrison’s undoubted pedigree – for she won the Nobel Prize in...See more
I read this book because it was listed in a recent television programme as “one of the most influential books of the 20th century”, and on its back cover as “… an American masterpiece”. Sadly, and despite Toni Morrison’s undoubted pedigree – for she won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993 - I do agree with either of these epithets. Some might argue that as a [relatively] elderly white man I would be incapable of empathising with the book, but my criticisms are nothing to do with a lack of empathy but are more a feeling that the book is not worthy of being considered as a masterpiece, as the writing is often unconvincing and confusing and the narrative frequently distracts from the powerful underlying story. The book, which was inspired by a true story, recounts the life of Sethe, who lived as a slave in Ohio in the second half of the 19th century; escaped via a desperate journey across the Ohio river; and came to live with her Grandmother Baby Suggs and her daughter Denver in a house called “124” in the free city of Cincinnati. The eponymous Beloved is the baby daughter whom Sethe killed because she didn’t want her to be taken away from her into a life of slavery; which led to Sethe being jailed (along with the baby Denver) and to her family being ostracised by their black community. The book’s most impressive passages describe in compelling detail the impecunious day-to-day horrific and oppressed existence of black slaves in middle America in the 19th century; their terror of white people, who consider them to be unhuman; and the widespread racism then prevalent in the country, even after the American Civil War. The latter, of course, still has echoes in modern USA. Although the dialogue is written in the vernacular, it is credible and easily understood despite (or perhaps because of) the absence of grammar, syntax and so forth. The story is told from various perspectives, sometimes from that of the [third person] author and sometimes from those of Sethe, Baby Suggs, Denver and other characters. This, coupled with the frequent time shifts and the fact that these are not described or signposted, meant that I often found myself wishing that the narrative had been written in a more straightforward manner. One thing in particular that I actively disliked was the reappearance in number 124 of Beloved as a young woman, who becomes the dominant personality in the household, first as a silent presence and then as the seducer of Paul D, the itinerant black man who had become Sethe’s lover. For several chapters I was unsure whether this character was someone with the same name as Sethe’s murdered daughter, or (as it transpires) was a supernatural reincarnation of her. I found this plot device rather tedious and unhelpful.
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