Blue's Reviews > Beloved

Beloved by Toni Morrison
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's review
Mar 18, 2011

really liked it
Read from March 07 to 14, 2011 — I own a copy

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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