Book Review: Beloved by Toni Morrison

6149Staring 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.

 

Rating: 8/10

Beloved is a book that I have been meaning to read for some time. I’ve only heard great things about it, and now I see why. Toni Morrison is an incredibly talented writer. In Beloved, Morrison has told a story that will remain an important piece of literature for years to come.

In the years after the Civil War, many ex-slaves are struggling to make a living in a society that wants nothing to do with them. Many struggle to create a new life for themselves, but sometimes the horrors of their pasts get in the way.

Sethe’s home is haunted by her dead child, making it difficult to raise her daughter, Denver. She is haunted by her past, a past she will never be able to escape.

The story often goes back and forth between the past and present with basically no warning, which sometimes makes it a little difficult to follow. You’re not really sure where in time you are until you put together what is happening. However, this works in way. It gives you the impression of being stuck in a past you want to get out of. Of being unable to separate your past from  your present. It’s a disconcerting feeling, but I feel it’s effective for the narrative and makes it possible for the reader to get an idea of what it’s like to live with a violent past everyday.

It’s also fascinating to see the relationship between Denver and her mother. Denver never had to live in slavery. She was born right near the end of the war, so she has no memory of living as a slave. However, everyday she sees how it has affected her mother. As the story continues, Denver has to do what she can to keep from losing her mother, both emotionally and physically. Much of this struggle is due to the arrival of Beloved, a mysterious girl who shows up at their home. At first, Beloved seems to help the family to mend, but as the story goes on, it becomes obvious that Beloved is toxic, eating away at Sethe from the inside out.

It’s a heartbreaking story of a woman trying to put her life together after years of atrocity, and a daughter trying to keep her mother from falling over the edge. Denver sometimes finds it difficult to live with her mother, but that doesn’t stop her from loving her.

I highly recommend this book. It can be a difficult read at times for multiple reasons. The syntax, time changes, and content sometimes make this a book that you need to read in spurts rather than all at once, but it’s totally worth the effort.

 

 

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