Will Byrnes's Reviews > Beloved

Beloved by Toni Morrison
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's review
Dec 15, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: all-time-favorites-fiction, favorites
Read in December, 2008

There are reasons why Toni Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. Beloved may be the biggest one. The structure is a ghost story about a woman who killed her own children rather than see them be dragged back from freedom to live a life of slavery, and how the guilt of that act comes back to haunt her. But the real payload here is a portrayal of the slave existence, how it seeps into every pore, affects every emotion, defines one’s world view, how one values education, how willing one can be to love another human being. It is a triumph, a masterwork by one of the world’s great writers, working so well at several levels.

Sethe is the main character. Having already sent her children ahead, this pregnant woman flees slavery in the south and takes up residence with her grandmother, Baby Suggs. But when a posse comes to bring her back, she kills her children rather than allow them to become slaves.

There is a lot here about identity, defining oneself in one’s own terms and not the owner’s for example. Also, there is commentary on the need for and value of community. Sethe’s daughter Denver never strays from their home, but when she finally does, she finds that there is help to be had. When Paul D is in need the community of free blacks is more than willing to help.

The story is based on a real case, on in which Margaret Garner (remembered in this book as the family name given to the less horrendous slave owners) in 1856 killed her children for the same reason.

Most men in this book are oppressors, but a few rise above. Mister Garner, although a slave owner, shows at least some signs of humanity. Paul D is the most developed male character, struggling with his fears and weaknesses, but in search of truth and peace.

Morrison utilizes expected literary devices like foreshadowing (an early image of a white-clad figure hovering over Sethe), flipping back and forth among several time lines, changing from third person to first, classic references (p 174 When the four horsemen came—schoolteacher, one nephew, one slave catcher and a sherrif—the hours on Bluestone Road was so quiet they thought they were too late.) to great effect.

More than just a great ghost story or an outstanding tale of slavery, Morrison has written a classic of 20th century American literature. It will be read forever.
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Quotes Will Liked

Toni Morrison
“Everything depends on knowing how much,” she said, and “Good is knowing when to stop.”
Toni Morrison, Beloved

Reading Progress

05/14 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-18 of 18) (18 new)

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Dolors Great review! This is on my to-read list this year.

Susan I lived this book. I read it so long ago, I think it is time to pull it out again.

Will Byrnes I truly hope you did not

message 4: by Lynne (new) - added it

Lynne King What an emotive book Will!

Dolors Will, I have come back to your review and it has really blown me away after reading the novel myself. What a masterpiece, you're capture every inch of its brilliance with this review.

Benjamin Dancer "There is a lot here about identity..."

That's what I resonated with--these characters. Sethe.

Nelson Zagalo Great review, for an astonishing novel. Finished today, pure human essence. Thanks

Will Byrnes It really is a great book. Thanks.

message 9: by Vessey (new) - added it

Vessey OMG, this sounds like something truly sweeping and heart-wretching. After reading this wonderful review, I just have to mark it. So glad I saw it through KOHEY.Y.'s updates. Thank you, Will! :)

message 10: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes This one is a keeper, Vessey.

Daniel Clausen I had to read this book three time before I understood how awesome it was. How many other books are out there that you have to read three times before you understand their greatness? If you know any others, Will, please give me a recommendation.

message 12: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes I can probably count the books I have read three or more times on a single hand (counting LOTR as one), so may not be a great source for those, but I have sent along some suggestions in a msg for some outstanding reads.

Daniel Clausen Will wrote: "I can probably count the books I have read three or more times on a single hand (counting LOTR as one), so may not be a great source for those, but I have sent along some suggestions in a msg for s..."

Awesome. Some of them were already on my reading list. I read some of the reviews, but many just didn't catch my eye. I'm always on the look out though for a Beloved-level wonder.

message 14: by Antonio (new) - added it

Antonio Fascinating review, Will!

message 15: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Thanks, Antonio. This book is a classic.

Anwesha Adhikary. 5 strs 4 u...gd rvys

Anwesha Adhikary. fršt çm frśt şrv...iam dä fršt wañ tø rëåd ìt
i mëâňt åftër çõmplètïňg thê bøøk

message 18: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Archisman Adhikary wrote: "5 strs 4 u...gd rvys"
Thanks, AA

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