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Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Toni Morrison’s Beloved is a spellbinding and dazzlingly innovative portrait of a woman haunted by the past.

Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has borne the unthinkable and not gone mad, yet she is still held captive by memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Meanwhile Sethe’s house has long been troubled by the angry, destructive ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.

Sethe works at beating back the past, but it makes itself heard and felt incessantly in her memory and in the lives of those around her. When a mysterious teenage girl arrives, calling herself Beloved, Sethe’s terrible secret explodes into the present.

Combining the visionary power of legend with the unassailable truth of history, Morrison’s unforgettable novel is one of the great and enduring works of American literature.

324 pages, Paperback

First published September 16, 1987

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About the author

Toni Morrison

199 books18.3k followers
Toni Morrison (born Chloe Ardelia Wofford) was an American author, editor, and professor who won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature for being an author "who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality."

Her novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue, and richly detailed African American characters; among the best known are her novels The Bluest Eye , Song of Solomon , and Beloved , which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988. In 2001 she was named one of "The 30 Most Powerful Women in America" by Ladies' Home Journal.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 19,680 reviews
Profile Image for Jessica.
593 reviews3,365 followers
January 27, 2009
Beloved is the Great American Horror Novel. Sorry Stephen King: evil clowns and alcoholic would-be writers are pretty creepy, but they just got nothing on the terrifying specter of American slavery! I literally got chills -- physical chills -- over and over while reading this book. To me, great horror has the scary element (e.g., a ghost) and then, lurking behind it, something so vast and evil that trying to think about it can make you go insane. Beloved did that! It worked as horror! And then also, even more, it worked as great American literature. I don't think in these terms too often, but it does seem like there's such a thing as national novels. I'm sure there's a better, fancier way to talk about what I mean, which is books that are so specifically about "The American Experience" that being an American reading them feels very special and intimate, as if it's a book about my own family. That feels like a strange and dorky thing for me to say, but it's how I felt. Slavery is such an essential part of all our heritage that reading this treatment of it felt very personal, like listening to secrets about your grandparents. Beloved really worked on something at the heart of the American experience, and while I don't usually think in those terms this book forced me to, which is one of many reasons why it did affect me so much.

I feel like Morrison has a certain reputation and associations that are completely at odds with what her work is actually like. Maybe it's the Toni-with-an-i thing; it's definitely the Oprah connection and the fact that she's a lady author, but whatever the reasons, I feel like people who haven't read her believe that Morrison writes these lovely, lyrical, ladylike books that will soften the heart and elevate the soul.... and I mean, I guess in a way she does, but these lovely books will give you seriously deranged nightmares. Toni Morrison is out of her MIND! I mean, she really must be in order to write these things. I can't imagine what it would be like to have this incredibly twisted stuff come out of my brain.... Of course, the most horrific parts of the book aren't invented; Morrison clearly spent a lot of time researching the historical record of slavery and thinking about its effects and meaning, and her ability to wrest a novel like this out of that past is just incomprehensible.... because in fact Beloved really is lovely and lyrical, but it's about the most disturbing shit imaginable. It's interesting to see how divided people on this site are about Morrison. A lot of people just LOATHE her! I think that's pretty understandable when you consider her subject matter. Some girl on here was like, "UGH! Beastiality, rape, torture, infanticide.... Toni Morrison is DISGUSTING!" And I mean, well, that girl's got a point, this book was pretty icky.... but it's about kind of an icky topic, ya know?

In a weird way, this felt a bit like the anti-Proust: it's about memory, but instead of being a plotless, enchanting, European meander through a picturesque past, Beloved is a brutal and ruthless American cousin with rough, bloody hands, running through the woods screaming. The book is about the problem of memory, specifically the memory of trauma, both on a personal and national level. I feel like everyone always wants to write these great books about the most terrible shit, but the fact is that doing so right is incredibly hard, which is maybe why there're so many bad books about tragedy and so many good books about boring people's mundane little problems. You really have to know what you're doing to write about the most terrible shit well, and Morrison picked THE most terrible shit in America's past, then wrote an original and organic ghost story that deserves its hallowed place in American literature.... Ya know, one thing we think about in social work school (or that I thought about, anyway) is the relationship between macro events or phenomena (e.g., a war, or racism) and its micro effects on individuals. This book depicts the effects of slavery on people -- individually and collectively -- with, just, well, shattering genius. But don't try this at home, folks! She is a lady of unusual talent and skills, and in most people's clumsy hands this effort'd be dangerous.

Beloved isn't flawless, and it's not one of my all-time favorite books or anything. However, it is a great classic, and I think everyone who hasn't already should read it.... well, actually, let me amend that. A lot of people on here, as noted, hate this book. If you struggle to follow a slightly nonlinear narrative or are white and feel personally affronted by descriptions of historical wrongs perpetrated by white people on black people, you might chose another book club selection. Everyone else, though, I think should give this a go, especially if you love ghost stories!

P.S. I just had a really fun idea for a literary double date, which would be Cathy from Wuthering Heights with Beloved, and Medea with Sethe. They could all go on the Oprah show together and talk about their traumatic experiences! I would definitely, definitely watch that, and I bet other people would too.
Profile Image for Samadrita.
295 reviews4,675 followers
July 31, 2014

You are my sister

You are my daughter

You are my face; you are me

I have found you again; you have come back to me

You are my beloved

You are mine

You are mine"

It's 6 o'clock in the morning and I have finished with one of the best books I have ever read in the course of my short life.
I am sleepless and I need a moment to organize my thoughts, sort out my feelings. Come back to real life. But I can't.

A part of me is still with Sethe and her daughters, Denver and Beloved at 124. A part of me is being tied to a pole and whipped mercilessly for eating a shoat I skinned, butchered and cooked myself. A part of me is giving birth to children of fathers who forced themselves on me. A part of me is still wondering whether my husband Halle is out there alive and free or long dead. A part of me is burying the daughter I killed with a handsaw because I couldn't live to see her being pushed into the endless abyss of torture and humiliation that I had to endure myself. A part of me is engraving the word 'Beloved' on the headstone of my dead girl, because she has no name.
But it is not I. It is Sethe and Sethe is not I.

I'm not even Baby Suggs (Sethe's mother-in-law) who never had a chance to recognize that she was a human being with a beating heart. Baby Suggs, who only looked at her own hands at the sunset of life and came to the realization that they were her own. Her very own for her own use and not the use of another. Baby Suggs, who was forced to accept the "kindness" of being bought out of slave labour by her own son, at the cost of never seeing him again, never knowing what happened to him.

I'm not Paul D, being made to wear neck braces as punishment for an act of belligerence, unable to move his head. Deeply afraid of starting a new life and adding a purpose to it-not knowing what to do with the new-found freedom after the Civil War. Afraid of loving too much and losing too much because of it.

I'm just a lucky Indian girl who was born in an era free from the worst form of human rights violation that ever existed on the planet. I was not alive during the period of systematic brutalization of one particular race by another just because one proclaimed racial superiority over the other.
I was not in the plantations of Kentucky or Georgia or the Carolinas before or after the Civil War. I wasn't in the hell called 'Sweet Home'.
But Sethe was. So were Halle, Paul D, Sixo, Paul A and Baby Suggs and the unnamed ones. And a part of me is with them and I still cannot wrest it away.

I can perhaps ramble on and on and still be completely unable to write a proper review of 'Beloved'. And I won't even try to summarize the book in a few sentences, since that would be deeply irreverent of me.

Beloved is not just a masterpiece, not even just a remarkable literary achievement.
Beloved is the beauty of the resilience of the human spirit.
Beloved is about hope and endurance.
Beloved tells us about unspeakable cruelty and abuse inflicted on humanity by humanity itself.
Beloved reveals festering psychological wounds, deep emotional scars that could never ever heal.
Beloved is profoundly lyrical and empathetic in its depiction of grotesque events that unfolded during the most ignominious part of America's history.
Beloved wrenches your heart out, shreds it into a million tiny pieces but then stitches all the pieces together and hands your heart back to you - all bloodied and messed up.

Maybe a few years down the line when I read Beloved again, I will write a more coherent review and sound less emotional. Maybe I will get every cryptic message Toni Morrison intended for her reader to receive and decode. Maybe I will not. But I will try.
And I will read this book again when I feel like my life is difficult or I can't go on anymore. I'm sure Sethe and Beloved will be there to hold my hands and lead me forward.

I cannot write anymore. I must go and find myself another tissue.

P.S.:- Apologies for the spoilers I have ended up including in the review. But I just had to write this the way I did.
Profile Image for Mark Stone.
Author 5 books23 followers
July 31, 2007
I don't give books low marks lightly. If anything, I am prone to being carried away by the author's enthusaism and rate books more highly than they deserve. I am an aspiring author, myself, and that also leads me to be kind to the books.

That being said, I really hated this book.

I like fantasy and magical realism. I find the dreams and allegories that live just underneath the skin of the world we can more readily see and touch endlessly fascinating. I like my stories intense and emotional, and I like it when characters are so full of passion that it obscures their sense of the world around them.

That being said, I really hated this book.

I found Beloved incomprehensible to the point of absurdity. It's one thing to have a book that is full of magic and poetry or to have a character's passion overwhelm their ability to describe the world from time to time, but I also need to know what is going on. For the story to grab me, I need to know what the story is.

Did I mention that I really hated this book?

I know it's trendy to read Toni Morrison, but I recommend this book to absolutely no one. I found it a borderline insulting waste of my time.
Profile Image for Glenn Sumi.
404 reviews1,587 followers
August 6, 2019
Updated, August 2019: RIP, Toni Morrison

Over the past 15 years, I’ve tried a couple of times to read Toni Morrison’s epic, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about murder, guilt, ghosts and the brutal, complex physical and psychological legacy of slavery.

Something about the dense, poetic prose and the elliptical nature of the storytelling made it impenetrable. After a chapter or two, I’d give up, perplexed. And I’ve read William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf! This made Oprah’s Book Club?

I’m so glad I persevered.

About a third of the way in, I realized just how carefully Morrison had constructed the narrative, which pivots on two horrific events: one involving a mother killing her child (inspired by the actual story of a woman named Margaret Garner), and the other, which informs the first, about an attempted escape by a group of slaves at a plantation – and its violent aftermath.

The setting is 1873, Ohio. Sethe and her daughter Denver live in a house on 124 Bluestone Road. Once a lively place where freed slaves congregated after Emancipation to get news and socialize, it’s now desolate and creepy, haunted by the spiteful ghost of Sethe’s dead two-year-old child – not a spoiler, since it’s introduced in the first few pages. The matriarch Baby Suggs (Sethe’s mother-in-law) is now dead, and Sethe’s two sons have fled the premises.

When Paul D enters the home, things begin to change. He and Sethe worked on the same plantation – called Sweet Home, ironic because it was anything but – decades earlier. They share history, good and bad, and harbour secrets from the other. Paul D’s presence makes the ghost leave, and he alienates the shy, awkward Denver and begins to make Sethe unshackle herself from the past… until a mysterious stranger – with no lines on her hands or face – appears at 124 to mess things up.

Beloved overflows with stories: some tragic, some vicious, some joyous, some brimming with love.

It takes a while to get all the names straight; I found myself flipping back to see when a character was introduced. It’s not a long book, average length really, but it’s dense and full of layered, complex imagery: about water (it's not a coincidence that Sethe's name suggests "Lethe," the river of forgetfulness and oblivion), colours, milk, metal. I'll never forget the description of Sethe’s back, so severely scarred from whippings it resembles a multi-branched tree, or Paul D talking about slaves having their mouths pried open with horses’ bits (“the wildness that shot up into the eye the moment the lips were yanked back”).

Other things that will haunt and disturb me: the idea of black slaves being compared to animals; the sequence in which Paul D discovers just how much he’s worth in dollars and cents, compared to Sethe, who is basically a breeding machine to create more slaves (imagine what that would do to a person’s – a people's? – sense of self-worth). These are balanced out with scenes of kindness and generosity.

Not all the white characters are bad; one feisty young poor white girl helps Sethe deliver her child in a boat, and there’s a subtle portrait of a pair of generous, older white siblings who radiate humanity. And unlike Walker’s The Color Purple, the black men in the book aren’t all fools and rapists. Morrison’s vision is broad, expansive, clear-eyed but ultimately forgiving.

The language is earthy yet majestic, with echoes of Faulkner and even the King James Bible. It’s often hard to read because it feels like you’re wading through an ocean of memories, some of which are buried deep and trying to surface.

The point of view shifts repeatedly. In one remarkable section, we’re given the POV of the dead baby in which she’s caught between death and life. Morrison gives you various takes on the same scene but spreads them throughout the book, so you circle around events trying to get to the truth. Is the truth possible? Do some things remain unknowable?

There’s unspeakable, real human pain at the centre. Shame. Desperation. Guilt. Generations of it. But like much great art, Beloved offers a glimmer of hope and redemption at the end.

"Sethe," [says Paul D], "me and you, we got more yesterday than anybody. We need some kind of tomorrow."

Profile Image for s.penkevich.
964 reviews6,826 followers
August 16, 2023
Something that is loved is never lost.

Every so often a book comes along that shakes you until you feel you might break open and, worn out in the aftermath of emotional devastation, you recognize how important and impactful storytelling can be. Storytelling carries memories on into the future though, as is the case of Nobel Prize winning novelist Toni Morrison’s Beloved, memories can often be very painful to revisit and can still haunt and harm in the present and future. Such are the horrors of slavery and Beloved addresses the collective memory of violences that are physically, emotionally and spiritually destructive. ‘Rememory’ is the term Morrison’s character Sethe gives to memories that not only affect the individual but those around them as well, and through the rememory of Beloved Morrison addresses not only the child that was killed but also the countless deaths to slavery and racial violence and states that all of them are beloved. Beloved is an essential classic, revising and revitalizing the slave narrative through a collective of voices that explore the psychological as well as physical suffering and shows how it is perpetuated for years to come. While those who met Beloved seem to fall silent on the matter later because ‘It was not a story to pass on,’ Morrison shows why it is necessary to tell these stories (especially as Sethe is based on the real story of Margaret Garner) and through Beloved she expertly explores memory, community and the lasting consequences of the horrors of slavery.

Who would have thought that a little old baby could harbor so much rage,’ those who live in the house 124 say of the ghost who haunts the home. Yet if this ghost—that of Sethe’s unnamed child known only as Beloved for the solitary word Sethe paid in flesh to have carved—is also the memory of all those lost to slavery, one begins to understand the limitless express of sadness and rage that could be had. ‘Beloved represents African American history or collective memory as much as she does Sethe’s or Paul D’s individual memory,’ wrote Pamela E. Barnett, and other critics have compared her to the collective pain of those lost in the Middle Passage (Beloved at one point recalls memories of being aboard a slave ship) and is much a figure of Sethe’s daughter remembered but also the countless lost to slavery.

This can be a very difficult book, especially emotionally, with horrific depictions of sexual and physical violence and recounting some of the darkest moments in US history, yet through Morrison’s exquisite prose it becomes a horror one cannot—or should not—look away from. An aspect of Morrison’s oeuvre that ensures it lasting importance is how she draws a direct line between past and any present to force us to confront the lasting effects of slavery and that we cannot just dismiss it as a sin of the past but as a lasting trauma with its talons still drawing blood in the present day. Which is why we tell stories, to draw attention to the past and contextualize the present, which Morrison does here showing how slavery affects those who have been freed.

Me and you, we got more yesterday than anybody. We need some kind of tomorrow.

Sethe and Paul D have a lot of trauma behind them, having both been captive at Sweet House, a place that ‘wasn’t sweet and it sure wasn’t home.’ They do not want to revisit these stories, but the sudden arrival of the mysterious Beloved force the memories to resurface. Sethe cannot help but see even beautiful natural scenery without juxtaposing it with images flashing in her mind of bodies hanging from the branches and Paul D hopes to keep the past hidden away ‘in that tobacco tin buried in his chest where a red heart used to be.’ Beloved ruptures this and calls to mind the lost child haunting the house, depicted in many ways like an infant with her head seemingly unable to be supported by her neck, having croup, and demanding all of Sethe’s attention and support, but we see how while these memories can be painful they can also be healing. For Sethe we see the connection with her and Beloved being assessed as a second chance to raise her child, but a moment of more or less sexual assault on Paul D also returns his memories to him. In Pamela E. Barnett’s essay Rape and the Supernatural in Beloved , she describes Beloved as a figure of a succubus from African folklore and that by awakening his memories—which also reconnect him to his body and emotions—is a recurrence of his sexual assault and ‘has emasculated him just as the guards in Alfred, Georgia did.’ Except through this he heals instead of breaks.

In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it.

The sexual encounter also points at another major theme in the book about the focus on flesh. We have, of course, the violence against the flesh of work on the plantations and the extreme abuse that lacerated their skin. But we also see the healing of touch, such as Baby Suggs working Sethe back to health with her hands.There is also the imagery of the bruises around Sethe’s neck, which Denver accuses Beloved of leaving but Beloved says ‘I didn’t choke [her neck]. The circle of iron choked it’ in reference to the iron collar worn by the slaves leaving a lasting mark on the body. There is the lesson that Black people must remember to love their flesh despite and in spite of the hatred for it from the white people. To love oneself and love the Black community is the path to freedom:
And O my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. and all your inside parts that they'd just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver--love it, love it and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.

One of the best depictions between the link of the individual body and the collective body is that of the call and response songs sung as slaves. They ‘saing it out and beat it up, garbling the words so they would not be understood; trickling the words so their syllables yielded up other meanings.’ There is the aspect that they were a community through song as much as they were being physically chained together in shared, forced labor. Body and spirits united, and why it was so important to remember ‘a man could risk his own life, but not his brother’s.’ I also feel Morrison helps create a feeling of community and the collective through the multiple perspectives sharing the narrative.

A critical form of community with others in Beloved is that of motherhood. Under slavery, bonds between mothers and their children we thwarted because a mother would likely watch their children sold to another farm. For this reason Paul D sees Sethe’s relationship with Denver and thinks ‘to love anything that much was dangerous, especially if it was her children she had settled on to love.’ The connection with a mother is also why Denver feels so betrayed by the closeness of Sethe and Beloved, who she feels is usurping her place (while most character growth is turned inward in the novel, Denver’s is more active, going from isolated and somber to entering the larger community through work and taking a more active role in everyone’s lives). Motherhood is such a strong emotional core to the novel, particularly when we learn why the unnamed child was killed and how we as readers cannot even fathom having to choose to find the death of your own child a sort of mercy when ‘being alive was the hard part.’ I enjoyed Morrison’s craft of juxtaposing the climax of both the past and present narratives around Sethe seeing a white man as a threat to her freedom and the freedom of her children, with the scene in the present being a moment where she is saved by her community, reestablishing its importance to the story.

Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.

Toni Morrison once said ‘slavery broke the world in half’ and her body of work examines this as well as the long litany of aftershocks haunting the present. In Beloved we watch how even those freed from slavery after escaping are still suffering in its shadow. Memory is a point of pain, but also an avenue to healing and we tell these stories so those who are not here to tell of their pain are still remembered and loved. Beloved is a towering achievement of a novel, both in terms of craft and importance and it is one that rocks the reader to the core. An essential read if there ever was one.

Profile Image for Angela M .
1,308 reviews2,191 followers
August 15, 2019

The brutal truth, brilliantly written. A mother hanging from a tree, the vile debasement of a nursing mother, scars so deep from whipping that they make a design of a tree on a woman’s back, a bloodied dead baby, the ultimate symbol of how truly horrific slavery was. These are some of the images that I will remember long after reading this book. This was not an easy book to read and it’s not one I can say was enjoyable in the strictest sense of the word, but I can say that I appreciated every word, what the story tells of and how it is told. The past is present in flashbacks, in memory, in stories told by one character to another, in streams of consciousness. The past is always present in the present. It’s a haunting ghost story, but the past is more haunting, more daunting. This blend of past and present requires the reader to pay close attention. I read it slowly so I wouldn’t miss what was happening, what had happened.

What an achievement in storytelling! Much has been written about this book that tells more of Sethe’s story, more of Baby Suggs’s story, more about Denver’s story and more about Paul D’s story and of course Beloved’s. I’m not going to do that here because it’s Toni Morrison’s story to tell and I recommend that you discover it yourself. Just be prepared. That Sethe’s character is based on a real person deepens the significance when as a reader I considered what a mother would do to save her child from a horrific life of slavery.

The news of Toni Morrison’s recent death is what prompted me to finally pick this up out of the basket next to my bed, filled with books I’ve been meaning to read. With every article I read about her this last week, I kept thinking about how much I have missed by not having read any of her books. As difficult as this was to read, I’m glad I did and I know that I will read more so as not to miss out on more of the reasons why Morrison deserved so many accolades, including the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Profile Image for Lisa.
991 reviews3,320 followers
September 22, 2020
RIP, Beloved Toni Morrison! You changed the way I read!

Sometimes reality is too painful to address in plain, simple narrative.

Sometimes truth has to be approached in circling movements, slowly getting to the heart of the matter through shifting, loosely linked stories that touch on the wound ever so lightly, without getting too close too fast.

Sometimes I read to escape my reality, only to find myself in a universe endlessly more complicated, more painful, more difficult to understand and follow.

Sometimes basic statements like "I could never understand why a mother would kill her child" seem to dissolve, leaving a confused feeling of not knowing exactly anymore what is right and what is wrong, given specific cruel circumstances.

Sometimes novels shake me and leave me scarred, endlessly sad and grateful at the same time.

Beloved Toni Morrison. Your voice sounds loud and clear through the fog of political thought. Your characters live and breathe and DO NOT ALLOW FOR simplistic explanations.

If you want to know what slavery does to people, read Beloved.

It will not leave you unaffected. It left me speechless.
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,310 reviews120k followers
August 29, 2020
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.

Toni Morrison - image fr0m The New Yorker

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.

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Morrison’s Facebook page - Morrison passed in 2019. The page is maintained by Knopf.

Reviews of other Morrison work
-----2014 - God Help the Child
-----2011 - Home
-----2008 - A Mercy

Read but not reviewed
-----1977 - Song of Solomon
-----1973 - Sula

Profile Image for Violet wells.
433 reviews3,220 followers
February 23, 2019
This is one of those rare and beautiful books that begins as if it's written in a code you have to crack. You have the sense early on that you've missed some vital shred of information and it's these perceived black holes that engage your attention on an ever deepening level. As is the case in the best detective novels maddening clues needed to complete knowledge are scattered deftly at every turn. The past is a constant illuminating presence in every present moment. Beloved exploits brilliantly so many of the possibilities the novel offers as an art form. And Morrison has an ingenious control of her difficult material throughout. Beloved is historical fiction, probably the best ghost story ever written along with Wuthering Heights, it has elements of playful magical realism but it's also a raging righteous social document; it's an exciting detective story, a rich and character strong family saga and a moving grown up romance. Rare to encounter a novel written with so much heart combined with masterful artistry.
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,636 followers
April 20, 2020
This was my second or third reading of Beloved, a book that broke my heart and remade it once again. The tree on Sethe's back is a map to both pain and redemption. I feel like I am going to quote nearly the entire book if I keep to copy out all of my notes. From the initial haunting of Beloved and her return - the tale of Sethe is the tale of the revolting violence and sexual underpinning of the institution of slavery. The stories from Sweet Home are all heartbreaking (particularly once Schoolteacher takes over), and yet even across the river at 124, those who escaped are unsafe. The novel does a fantastic job of capturing the love of Sethe and Paul D, the emergence of an "I" for Denver and the pain of loss for Baby Suggs. Memorable from start to finish, this is truly one of the greatest works of fiction of the last century. I loved how it ended as Denver takes control of her life and in doing so, saves Sethe. Love conquers all.

Sethe is defiant at the beginning of the book when Paul D arrives: "I got a tree on my back and a haint in my house, and nothing in between but the daughter I am holding in my arms. Now more running - from nothing." (p. 15). Paul D, being the kind soul that he is, listens to the shards of her story. The reader needs to be patient because the full meaning of the loss of milk, the lost sons Buglar and Howard, the whitegirl - all of these will be peeled off of the story like layers of an onion. The emotion is overwhelming and creates tenderness between Sethe and Paul D: As she raised up from the heat she felt Paul D behind her and his hands under her breasts. She straightened up and knew, but could not feel, that is cheek was pressing into the branches of the chokecherry tree. (p. 17). And just like that, Paul D casts the ghost of 124 out, leaving Denver confused and alone:Now her mother was upstairs with the man who had gotten rid of the only other company she had. Denver dipped a bit of bread into the jelly. Slowly, methodically, miserably, she ate it. (p. 19). What is impressive is the power of Morrison's writing and how much she packs into these first 20 pages of the first chapter, it is breathtaking to read.

The afternoon lovemaking of Sethe and Paul D opens up vistas in their memory of the previous slave life they shared at Sweet Home when Sethe was with Halle and got pregnant with Denver. Most of the memories are rife with the inherent inhumanity and violence of slavery. To survive, the slaves of Sweet Home had to derive pleasure from very small, nearly insignificant things like corn in the field in which Halle and Sethe had made love the first time:What he did remember was parting the hair to get to the tip, the edge of his fingernail just under, so as not to graze a single kernel. The pulling down on the tight sheath, the ripping sound always convinced her it hurt. As soon as one strip of husk was down, the rest obeyed and the ear yielded up to him its shiny rows, exposed at last. How loose the silk. How quick the jailed up flavor ran free. No matter what all your teeth and wet fingers anticipated, there was no accounting for the way that simple joy could shake you. How loose the silk. How fine and loose and free. (p . 27). A lot to unpack there, but it is amazing how the memories of Sethe and Paul D intertwine - Sethe remembering the sex in the field and comparing it to the pain of opening the corn husk and Paul D remembering the sensations - both tactile and gustatory - of the raw corn.

One important thing to keep in mind when reading Beloved is the deep vernacular used by the protagonists that requires sometimes reading out loud to get a feel for the sing-songy diction and how time is strictly non-linear as each of the characters shifts back and forth over memories too painful to bear all at once. There is also an extremely sensual aspect to Morrison's writing where the various senses blend together:The closer the roses got to death, the louder their scent and everybody who attended the carnival associated it with the stench of the rotten roses. (p. 47). I took this to be another way of displacing the painful memories and dispersing them so as to dampen their bite.

Not long afterward, Beloved comes to 124 and the heart of the novel is how she has a dysfunctional, fusional relationship with Sethe, a distant, opportunistic relationship with Denver, and a violent, sexual relationship with Paul D driving him away from the house. It takes Sethe a lot longer then Denver to realize this because of Beloved's all-consuming devotion: Sethe was flattered by Beloved's open, quiet devotion...the company of this sweet, if peculiar, guest pleased her the way a zealot pleases his teacher. (p. 57) Paul D, before leaving, is tortured with memories that he long hid deep inside:He would keep the rest where it belonged: in that tobacco tin buried in his chest where a red heart used to be. Its lid rusted shut. He would not pry it loose now in front of this sweet sturdy woman, for if she got a whiff of the contents, it would shame him. And it would hurt her to know that there was no read heart bright as Mister's comb beating in him. (p. 73). Note that Mister was a rooster back at the Sweet Home farm.

Halle was Sethe's husband and the father of her children before the flight from Sweet Home to where Halle's mother Baby Suggs had escaped in free Ohio, 124. Near the house, there was a clearing where she would give open air speeches to the other fugitives and survivors:Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them. Pat them together, stroke them on your face 'cause they don't love that either. You got to love it, you! And no, they ain't in love with your mouth. Yonder, out there, they will see it broken and break it again. What you say out of it they will not heed. What you scream from it they do not hear...This is flesh I'm talking about here. Flesh that needs to be loved. (p. 88) Sethe bitterly misses the 28 days between her arrival at 124 and the catastrophe that consumes her, she misses especially the comfort of Baby Suggs:Just the fingers she thought. Just let me feel your fingers again on the back of my neck and I will lay it all down, make a way out of this no way. (p. 95)

In his reminiscing, we learn of Paul D's incredible journey and the countless acts of violence and predation that he survived including a chain gang under the beating sun of Georgia singing songs to Mr. Death, they smashed his head. More than the rest, they killed the flirt who folks called Life for leading them on. Making them think the next sunrise would be worth it; that another stroke of time would do it at last. Only when she was dead would they be safe. The successful ones - the ones who had been there enough years to have maimed, mutilated, and maybe even buried her - kept watch over the others who were still in her cock-teasing hug, caring and looking forward, remembering and looking back. (p. 109) During his wandering, he finds little consolation with the Cherokee who suffered the fate of genocide at the hands of white settlers. Decimated but stubborn, they were among those who chose a fugitive life rather than Oklahoma. The illness that swept them now was reminiscent of the one that had killed half their number two hundred years earlier. In between that calamity and this, they had visited George III in London, published a newspaper, made baskets,led Oglethorpe through forests, helped Andrew Jackson fight Creek, cooked maize, drawn up a constitution, petitioned the King of Spain, been experimented on by Dartmouth, established asylums, wrote their language, resisted settlers, shot bear, and translated scripture. All to no avail. The forced move to the Arkansas River, insisted upon by the same president they fought for against the Creek, destroyed another quarter of their already shattered number. (p. 111). Equally horrifying was on his way to 124, having tied up his boat he notices something red:Reaching for it, he thought it was a cardinal feather stuck to his boat. He tugged and what came loose in his hand was a red ribbon knotted around a curl of wet wooly hair, clinging still to a its bit of scalp. (p. 180) He keeps the ribbon which comes to symbolize for him the tiniest hope for survival among the ferocious slave bounty hunters and the promised haven of 124.

In the wake of Paul D's leaving after learning the complete story from Stamp Paid, things collapse in 124 into complete insanity as Sethe and Beloved become inseparable and push Denver out. At the end of the novel however, Denver finds a way to banish Beloved definitively by rallying the community of women in a beautiful scene (p. 261). Paul D rushes back to the side of Sethe, sick, and recalls a description of love by another victim of Sweet Home, Sixo, and his lover, the Thirty Mile Woman:'she is a friend of my mind. She gathers me, man. The pieces I am, she gathers them and gives them back to me in all the right order. It's good you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind. As the curtain falls on the book, the exchange between Sethe and Paul D:
Only this woman Sethe could have left him his manhood like that. He wants to put his story next to hers.
"Sethe," he says, "me and you, we got more yesterday than anybody. We need some kind of tomorrow."
He leans over and takes her hand, With the other he touches her face. "You your best thing, Sethe. You are." His holding fingers and holding hers.
"Me? Me?"
(p. 273).

This is truly one of the most painful and beautiful books I have ever read and should be required reading for high school kids to understand fully the de-humanizing aspects of slavery and how sex was used as a tool for oppression. But mostly for the stunning love story of Sethe and Paul D.

Fino's Toni Morrison Reviews:
The Bluest Eye
Song Of Solomon
Tar Baby
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,119 reviews44.8k followers
March 24, 2018
Beloved is a novel about haunting; it is a novel about the human inability to move on from the past and how easily it can resurface. We may try to move on, but it never really leaves us. And when the past is painful and full of blood it echoes for an eternity.

“You know as well as I do that people who die bad don’t stay in the ground.”

Enter Beloved, daughter of Sethe, a girl killed by her mother many years previous to escape the shackles of slavery. Was it murder? Was it mercy? Was it both? I don’t have the answers, though the past never stays dead. The American slave trade can never be forgotten nor should it. Although Beloved is the physical manifestation that is haunting her mother, the reality is somewhat different. It is her past; it is the injustice she faced and a decision she was forced to make that will never leave her. Beloved is just the embodiment of it.

The novel flicks around in time, moving forwards, backwards and then returning the present. Sometimes it’s mid-chapter with no clearly defined shift. A character’s mind will wonder, returning to a time or place which helps to define who they are in the now. Beloved is no light reading. It is a demanding book. The plot shifts around with little explanation, point of views change randomly and quickly. But, again, this is because the past never truly leaves us. We may be in the present, though our history will always haunt us. And here America is being haunted by her dark past.

Tony Morrison’s prose is eloquent and deals directly with psychological trauma. It’s more than physical scars and life wasted in servitude; it’s about what happens after. The shackles may have been removed but each former slave will always feel them on their wrists biting into their skin. They flock together, building new communities out of those who experienced, and are still experiencing, the pain and hell slavery wrought them. They do their best to carry on and make new lives, though racial prejudice still remains. And it will for many more years.

But who are they now?

There is also a sense of closeness, of inexperience. The world is a vast place, but for former slaves, for those born into slavery, it is dauntingly huge. Imagine spending your entire life in one enclosed space, knowing but a small handful of people, and then suddenly having the world made available to you. You don’t know it. You don’t understand it. All you have ever known is forced labour and the slave master’s whip. Where do you go? Where do you belong? Thus, men like Paul D are forced to wonder with no real sense of belonging. They go from town to town, relationship to relationship, without establishing a strong sense of identity or roots.

Pain permeates this narrative. It oozes out of the characters and their sad experiences. Morrison gets to the heart of the matter and she is uncompromising in her honesty. Certainly, not a novel to be missed though I was glad to finish it.
Profile Image for Harpal Khalsa.
50 reviews8 followers
August 26, 2008
This is probably my least favorite book I have ever read. I think I hate it even more because so many people like it so much. Unlike really trashy novels, people actually try to argue that this is a great book. But it definitely embodies all the things that make me hate books. It's heavy handed with its message, which ultimately ruins some pretty spectacular imagery. Its also just a giant pastiche of people who can actually write, which makes it just feel disjointed and annoying since it switches between standard narration and stream of conciousness and surrealism in intensely awkward ways. It's not even like that switching between different narrative structures is inherently bad, but this book definitely does it in the most ridiculously annoying way of any book I have ever read. Along with the heavy handedness of the whole affair is that this whole book is just trying to make me guilty for being white. It is probably one of the top 3 most unfortunate things in the history of the world that slavery not only ever existed but went on for so long, but I already get that. So really Toni, no need to beat that into my head with a bloody axe (So to speak).
Seriously, even thinking of the entire month I spent reading and analyzing this giant piece of trash gives me a headache. I'm convinced that this book strikes the ultimate low-point on the acclaim vs. enjoyability graph. It's just artsy-fartsy nonsense for people who want to feel like they're reading real literature when they're not. I'm pretty sure I don't have proper words to express my hatred for this book (Or, rather, if I expressed my hatred for this book, my words would not be proper), so I'll just leave it at that.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews47 followers
January 13, 2022
(Book 223 from 1001 books) - Beloved, Toni Morrison

Beloved is a 1987 novel by the American writer Toni Morrison.

Set after the American Civil War (1861–65), it is inspired by the story of an African-American slave, Margaret Garner, who escaped slavery in Kentucky late January 1856 by fleeing to Ohio, a free state. Morrison had come across the story "A Visit to the Slave Mother who Killed Her Child" in an 1856 newspaper article published in the American Baptist and reproduced in The Black Book, a miscellaneous compilation of black history and culture that Morrison edited in 1974.

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «دلبند»؛ «محبوب»؛ «دخترم بیلاود»؛ نویسنده تونی موریسون (روشنگران و چشمه) ادبیات؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز پنجم ماه آگوست سال2011میلادی

عنوان: دخ‍ت‍رم‌ ب‍ی‍لاود؛ نویسنده: ت‍ون‍ی‌ م‍وری‍س‍ن‌ (موریسون)؛ مت‍رج‍م گ‍ل‍رخ‌ س‍ع‍ی‍دن‍ی‍ا؛ ت‍ه‍ران ن‍ش‍ر م‍رغ‌ آم‍ی‍ن‌‏‫، سال1373؛ در315ص؛ شابک9645519136؛ موضوع داستان‌های نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده29م

عنوان: م‍ح‍ب‍وب‌؛ ت‍ون‍ی‌ م‍اری‍س‍ون‌؛ مت‍رج‍م س‍ان‍از ص‍ح‍ت‍ی‌؛ تهران، دادار، سال1381؛ در335ص؛ شابک9647294905؛

عنوان: دلبند؛ نویسنده: تونی موریسون؛ مترجم: شیرین‌دخت دقیقیان؛ تهران، روشنگران و چشمه؛ سال1373؛ در405ص؛ چاپ دوم سال1377؛ شابک9646194893؛ چاپ سوم سال1388؛ چاپ چهارم سال1390؛ چاپ پنجم سال1394؛ در405ص؛ شابک978964362579؛ چاپ ششم سال1397؛

کتاب را خانمها «شیریندخت دقیقیان» با عنوان «دلبند»؛ و «گلرخ سعیدنیا»؛ با عنوان «دخترم بیلاود» و «ساناز صحتی» با عنوان «محبوب»، و «مرجان مثنوی» با عنوان «دلبند» ترجمه کرده اند؛

تونی موریسون نخستین زن سیاهپوست بودند، که برای «دلبند» جایزه نوبل ادبیات دریافت کردند؛ در سال1998میلادی فیلم این رمان، به کارگردانی «جاناتان دیم» و تهیه کنندگی و بازی «اپرا وینفری» ساخته شد

داستان به دوران سیاه بردگی، و زندگی بردگان سیاهپوست میپردازد؛ داستان دردناک یک برده ی زن و سیاهپوست، به نام «ست»، که دختر خود را میکشد، تا او را از وحشت زندگی در بردگی، در امان دارد؛ داستان «ست»، زندگی حقیقی برده ای به نام «مارگارت گارنر» است، که در سال1856میلادی، از دست صاحبش در «کنتاکی»، به امید یافتن پناهگاهی در «سین سیناتی»، فرار میکند؛ اما درست هنگامی که صاحبانش او را دستگیر میکنند، امید خویش را از دست میدهد، و یکی از دخترانش را میکشد؛ «موریسون» بسیار زیبا این داستان واقعی را، با پیش زمینه ی برده داری بسط داده؛ تا به دوران فراموش‌ شده‌ ی بردگی، و برده‌ داری و لزوم ترحم به بردگان سیاهپوست بپردازد؛ پیوستگی میان شخصیت‌های زن، و چند‌لایه بودن در روابط میان آن‌ها، باعث جذابیت‌های احساسی ویژه ای شده‌ است، به عناصر اجتماعی، روانشناسی و فلسفی زندگی انسانی نیز می‌پردازد؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 09/10/1394هجری خورشیدی؛ 22/10/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Always Pouting.
575 reviews762 followers
March 24, 2022
The reasons that other people hated this book are reasons I liked it to be honest. I like this kind of writing and I understood what Morrison was trying to go for. I obviously haven't experienced anything as traumatic as the characters but I think the book does a good job capturing the sensation of certain types of guilt, isolation, dissociation, and intrusive thoughts/memories. I get why people may have had trouble following along, I did too at first but I feel like if you read the book through it isn't so bad. I think that are a lot of points at which there's clarification about things that were vaguely mentioned or alluded to before. I personally liked the book and am looking forward to reading more of Toni Morrison.
Profile Image for Fabian.
956 reviews1,623 followers
February 11, 2020
It's been a while since I last was online (according to this computer's calculations: thirteen days ago) & since then I have finished the monumentally loved "Beloved."

The only way I can describe this sure classic is: "it's a mix between the most brilliant of Hawthorne (his Scarlet Letter bears plenty of similarities to Beloved since it too deals with a time of intense persecution in this country; the roles women played at such historical crossroads; the ghosts of the burdensome past making cameos in the present; haunted house motifs galore... and the secret history which comes back again and again) & the vibrant poetry of Maya Angelou."

This was written in the 198-! Hardly a long time ago, it was analyzed/embraced then as it is now for its hodgepodge of ghost story elements, & romance, and historical biography. Because slavery is such a muddy record in our books, it is certain documents like these, which help widen the scope significantly, to include various P.O.V.s & jumps in time, that are truly significant to American Literature. The book mirrors the psyche of a woman who chooses liberating death for her child, rather than the awful clutch of slavery. It decidedly marks a usually-undocumented moment when ex-slaves got something close to freedom-- and had to find out how to live, survive, or try to make way for the upcoming generation-- outside of slavery.
Profile Image for leynes.
1,114 reviews3,028 followers
September 13, 2022
When I first started reading Beloved I genuinely thought I'd never get through it. I had heard that the book deals with a lot of heavy subjects like slavery, rape, child death and bestiality. And I knew from prior readings of Morrison's work that her novels are never easy. You cannot digest them quickly. Morrison's words will sit with you for a while, there's a lot to chew on. But to my great surprise Beloved wasn't as "bad" as I thought it would be. I actually got through it; fell in love with Sethe and the realities that Morrison created within the narrative.

In the introduction, Morrison writes that she wanted to explore what "being free" could possibly mean to (Black) women. In doing so, Morrison not only explored female freedom but also the complexities of female desire that go along with it, the burden of motherhood and how (generational) trauma manifests itself in manifold ways.
I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.
Beloved is a special story. As it opens, Sethe, a Black woman in her late thirties, is living with her 18-year-old daughter, Denver, in a house that the neighbours avoid because it is haunted: "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 time is the early 1870s, right after the first wrenching dislocations of the Civil War and its aftermath. Sethe and Denver live in an uneasy truce with the ghost until the arrival of Paul D, one of Sethe's fellow workers on her former plantation in Kentucky. Paul exorcises the ghost, only for a mysterious female stranger to show up in her stead. She is 20 years old and strangely unmarked – she has no lines in her palms, for example, and her feet and clothing show no signs of hard travelling. She calls herself "Beloved ", and Sethe and Denver are happy to take her in.

Sethe, Denver, Paul D and every other character in the novel live simultaneously in their present and in their history – the chapters of the novel alternate between the two stories: that of the growing contest between Sethe and Beloved; and that of Sethe's life on the plantation, her escape, and the traumatic events that followed her crossing of the Ohio River and her appearance at the home of her mother-inlaw, Baby Suggs. A crucial, revealing and in some ways impossible to assimilate event takes place about halfway through the novel – Sethe's former enslaver shows up with some officers to recapture the escapees, and Sethe attempts to kill her children. The two boys and the newborn survive, but she succeeds in slitting the throat of the two-year-old.
What she called the nastiness of life was the shock she received upon learning that nobody stopped playing checkers just because the pieces included her children.
Everyone is astonished and appalled by this turn of events (which Morrison discovered in an old newspaper account of the period). Baby Suggs is never the same again; Sethe is shunned by her fellow citizens; Denver grows up isolated and suspicious. Morrison is careful, though, to indicate that while this is a pivotal event in the lives of everyone, it is not the climax, or the worst thing to have happened to Sethe and her loved ones.

The climax of the historical narrative is, in fact, the night of the escape, when several of the escapees were hanged and mutilated, while the present-time narrative builds to Denver's decision to separate herself from what is apparently a life-and-death struggle between Sethe and Beloved, and to go out and find work and friends that will help her save herself.

One of the reasons Beloved is a great novel is that it is equally full of sensations and of meaning. Morrison knows exactly what she wants to do and how to do it, and she exploits every aspect of her subject. The characters are complex. Both stories are dramatic but in contrasting ways, and the past and the present constantly modify each other. Neither half of the novel suffers by contrast to the other.

Especially worth noting is Morrison's style, which is graphic, evocative and unwhite without veering toward dialect. Even though Morrison rejects realism, using a heightened diction and a lyrical narrative method returning again and again to particular images and events and adding to them so they are more and more fully described, the reader never doubts the reality of what Morrison reports.

Just as Sethe recognises Beloved toward the end of the novel, and knows at once that she has known all along who she is, the reader is shocked at the sufferings of the Black characters and the brutality of the whites, but knows at once that every torture and cruelty is not only plausible but also representative of many other horrors that go unmentioned in the novel and have gone unmentioned in American history.

Morrison depicts every incident with such concrete expressiveness that the reader takes it in willingly as truth. She is also entirely matter-of-fact in her assertions - equally so about the presence and identity of the ghost as about the character flaws of the whites. No aspect of the novel is presented as speculation, and so to read on, the reader suspends disbelief.
“Sethe, if I’m here with you, with Denver, you can go anywhere you want. Jump, if you want to, ’cause I’ll catch you, girl. I’ll catch you ’fore you fall. Go as far inside as you need to, I’ll hold your ankles. Make sure you get back out. […] We can make a life, girl. A life.”
Amongst many other things, Beloved is also a love story. And Sethe and Paul D are one of my favorite literary characters. Throughout the novel Sethe is scared of letting Paul D into her heart because "maybe a man was nothing but a man, which is what Baby Suggs always said." Life had let her down too many times to truly trust somebody and let herself fall. Over the course of the book Sethe reclaims her own worth, one that's separate from her children and her role as a mother, and therefore also reclaims her ability to love a man. Seeing their relationship blossom at the end and Paul D reassuring her of her own value actually made me cry.
“She left me.”
“Aw, girl. Don’t cry.”
“She was my best thing.”
“Sethe,” he says, “me and you, we got more yesterday than anybody. We need some kind of
He leans over and takes her hand. With the other he touches her face. “You your best thing, Sethe.
You are.” His holding fingers are holding hers.
“Me? Me?”
Beloved is one of the few American novels that take every natural element of the novel form and exploit it thoroughly, but in balance with all the other elements. The result is that it is dense but not long, dramatic but not melodramatic, particular and universal, shocking but reassuring, new but at the same time closely connected to the tradition of the novel, and likely to mould or change a reader's sense of the world.

As Morrison claims in her introduction, to me Beloved is a novel about freedom. Therefore, I want to share several quotes with you that show the journey that the characters, especially the main character Sethe, go on to accept that freedom for themselves:

"Of the two hard things—standing on her feet till she dropped or leaving her last and probably only living child—she chose the hard thing that made him happy, and never put to him the question she put to herself: What for? What does a sixty-odd-year-old slavewoman who walks like a three-legged dog need freedom for? And when she stepped foot on free ground she could not believe that Halle knew what she didn’t; that Halle, who had never drawn one free breath, knew that there was nothing like it in this world. It scared her."

"Paul D convinced me there was a world out there and that I could live in it. Should have known better. Did know better. Whatever is going on outside my door ain’t for me. The world is in this room. This here’s all there is and all there needs to be."

"Sethe recalled Paul D’s face in the street when he asked her to have a baby for him. Although she laughed and took his hand, it had frightened her. She thought quickly of how good the sex would be if that is what he wanted, but mostly she was frightened by the thought of having a baby once more. Needing to be good enough, alert enough, strong enough, that caring—again. Having to stay alive just that much longer."

"Last time I saw her she couldn’t do nothing but cry, and I couldn’t do a thing for her but wipe her face when I told her what they done to me. Somebody had to know it. Hear it. Somebody."

"Leave before Sethe could make her realize that worse than that—far worse—was what Baby Suggs died of, what Ella knew, what Stamp saw and what made Paul D tremble. That anybody white could take your whole self for anything that came to mind. Not just work, kill, or maim you, but dirty you. Dirty you so bad you couldn’t like yourself anymore. Dirty you so bad you forgot who you were and couldn’t think it up. And though she and others lived through and got over it, she could never let it happen to her own. The best thing she was, was her children. Whites might dirty her all right, but not her best thing, her beautiful, magical best thing—the part of her that was clean."

I don't think there's much to say about these quotes. They not only show Morrison being brilliant at her own craft but also trace the journey that Sethe goes through from being scared of freedom, yet cherishing it, feeling like her freedom (and the freedom of her loved ones) is limited, yet also realising how important it is to claim spaces (freedom) and speak/making yourself heard, and also realising the limitations that come with solely defining yourself over your children and being unable of putting oneself first.

Sethe has a lot to learn. And so do we. Morrison shows us a possible path towards what Black female freedom can truly look like. And for that, we shall cherish her forever. In addition, as she writes in the epigraph to her novel – "Sixty Million and more" – we shall never forget our ancestors and the people who walked and fought before us. Everything we do, we do for them.
Profile Image for Maria Espadinha.
1,027 reviews372 followers
May 31, 2021
124 — The House of the Baby Ghost

Who was Margaret Garner?

Ms. Garner was a former slave, who murdered one of her kids, and tried the very same procedure with the remaining ones.
After a failed escape, Margaret Garner was determined to end not even her own life, but also the ones of her beloved children.
Yes!... She was desperate enough to commit infanticide, suicide, whatever ... embracing death as an open gate to freedom!...

Ms. Garner showed no signs of insanity nor repentance.
Those hedious acts seemed the right thing to do in that particular, cruel, reality picture!

This real life event has been the seed to Beloved and it's probably the only truth you will find there. That, and ... needless to say, all the shocking slavery memories and scars!...

Toni Morrison found the real Margaret Garner fascinating and interesting enough to create a whole story about her:
She gave her thoughts, relatives, acquaintances, and... a house to live — 124, a home fiercely haunted by  the missing 3, who was entitled to an afterlife revenge!
124 was reminding the murderess (if I may say so?!) mother that she once had 4 kids instead of 3!

When I think about this infanticide, all I can say is ... maybe in this particular situation, the line between right and wrong, turned out so thin, that it came about invisible!
Let life be the judge!!! 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Profile Image for Maureen .
1,444 reviews7,062 followers
April 13, 2022
A re-read and absolutely worth it - beautiful!
Profile Image for Cecily.
1,137 reviews4,178 followers
January 8, 2021
I am not worthy to review this brilliant, visceral, mysterious, and powerful book.
The story is simple, but the telling is not - like watching a petal on the surface of turbulent water, unpredictably changing direction.
I understand the individual words, but the sense and sentences are elusive, even as they are beautiful and sometimes ugly - like trying to decipher an unfamiliar dialect or make sense of a half-forgotten dream.
I empathise with Paul D:
The feeling a large, silver fish had slipped from his hands the minute he grabbed hold of its tail”.

Image: Catching a fish with bare hands (Source)

Freedom from slavery does not free people from the past. Not even from the past of their forebears. Beloved shows the shocking brutality and the catastrophic multi-faceted consequences handed down generations, but the quicksilver prose casts a veil on the horror (rather as the Nadsat slang does in Clockwork Orange, which I reviewed HERE).

The narrative switches points of view and jumps about the timeline. What is true and what is imagined is muddled, muddy, moot, most especially who - or what - is Beloved. Elemental liquids mix and take on a mystical element: blood, milk, and water.

Image: Blood and water mixing (Source)


I'm sure there are many books, theses, and GR reviews exploring these far better than I can, and I will shortly look at friends' reviews. The key themes I saw include:
• Mother-daughter-sister love and sacrifice
• If and when murder is the kinder option
• Guilt, redemption, and revenge
• Who has the right to know and tell of a partner’s past
• Masculinity, especially for the enslaved
• Memories and the balance of past and future
• Trauma/PTSD
• The nature of ghosts
• A house as a character
• The power of community
• Color - not just in the sense of race.

A fully dressed woman walked out of the water”, almost like Ophelia in reverse

Image: Ophelia by John Everett Millais (Source.)


• “It was April and everything alive was tentative.”

• “The chimney coughed against the rush of cold shooting into it from the sky.”

• “The sky above them was another country. Winter stars, close enough to lick, had come out before sunset.”

• “Sethe was licked, tasted, eaten by Beloved’s eyes… Their two shadows clashed and crossed on the ceiling like black swords.”

• “Threads of malice creeping toward him from Beloved’s side of the table were held harmless in the warmth of Sethe’s smile.”

Racist oppression
• “How much is a nigger supposed to take?...
All he can.”

• “Whitepeople believed that whatever the manners, under every dark skin was a jungle… The more coloredpeople spent their strength trying to convince them how gentle they were, how clever and loving, how human… the more tangled the jungle grew inside… It was the jungle whitefolks planted in them.”

• “Just beyond his knowing is the glare of an outside thing that embraces while it accuses.”

Past and future
• “She worked hard to remember as close to nothing as was safe.”

• “The future was a matter of keeping the past at bay.”

• “It wasn’t worth the trouble to try to learn features you would never see change into adulthood.”

• “Sad as it was that she did not know where her children were buried or what they looked like if alive, fact was she knew more about them than she knew about herself, having never had the map to discover what she was like.”

• “Me and you, we got more yesterdays than anybody… we need some kind of tomorrow.”


Enjoyment = 2*
Objective quality = 4*+
Overall = 3*
Profile Image for Trillian.
13 reviews7 followers
August 26, 2008
This is the worst book that I have ever read. It epitomizes what elite academics love about literature: It is dark and nasty (which, to an academic, means realistic) and it is obscure and incoherent (to an academic, this means deep and profound). This is like the deliberately hideous painting that is called "art" by intellectuals: Common-sense individuals question its merit and are told it is complex, beautiful, and beyond the untrained understanding and crass sensibilities of the uneducated. I disliked everything about this book - its leftist message, disgusting characters and grotesque writing style (a conglomeration of broken grammar rules, disorganized structure and ungainly narrative). It is mired in filth with its references to bestiality, sexual assault, psychological torture, violence and infanticide. "Beloved" is quintessential of the literature embraced by academics and which I think is morbid, uninspiring and worthless.
Profile Image for Jennifer Welsh.
258 reviews222 followers
July 10, 2023
One of the most devastating things about American slavery is how newborn babies were considered free gifts of property to slave owners. And there may be no better book than Toni Morrison’s, Beloved, to convey the specific pain of that for a mother.

This mother’s empathy for her daughters is so deep it burrows through her to the other side, until we find Sethe, the book’s protagonist, become Medea before our eyes. Morrison gives her way more humanity than Euripides did for me, and even more than David Vann ever could in his Bright Air Black. Now I understand Medea.

Morrison spares us details of direct abuse to children by whitefolks in this story (I love how that’s written as a single word) by showing instead the abuse to and from the mother. And even this Morrison leaves in the past, revealing instead how that kind of suffering scars one for life and crowds the present. Not much actually happens at the time of the main story, but that time is literally haunted by the past. And it is in the past where the drama lies, the pain of being human, that gets trapped in this family’s home.

“There is a loneliness that can be rocked. Arms crossed, knees drawn up; holding, holding on, this motion, unlike a ship’s, smooths and contains the rocker. It’s an inside kind – wrapped tight like skin. Then there is a loneliness that roams. No rocking can hold it down. It is alive, on its own. A dry and spreading thing that makes the sound of one’s own feet going seem to come from a far-off place.”

Morrison was a prose poet, and this book a bit like an Epic poem. The structure felt like a series of eddies swirling about and knocking into each other, sometimes even on a sentence level. It disoriented me; until I fell into a whirlpool that took me down so deep I almost didn’t make it back. And while she had me submerged I was knocked into a second eddy, this time sliding into the deep end of someone else, until Morrison brought me up for air. Talk about intimacy! The characters felt like amoebas, merging and splitting, merging and splitting, until new beings emerged, the desire between them visceral, symbiotic and engulfing. For all these reasons, this was an artful read. The thing is, I worked hard for it. I became hyper-vigilant of the big picture as I was knocked aside, bounced around, and sometimes kicked out. I held on tight, leaving the rest of me loose enough to trust the ride.

“She floated near but outside her own body, feeling vague and intense at the same time. Needing nothing. Being what there was.”

“White people believed that whatever the manners, under every dark skin was a jungle. Swift unnavigable waters, swinging screaming baboons, sleeping snakes, red gums ready for their sweet white blood. In a way, he thought, they were right. The more coloredpeople spent their strength trying to convince them how gentle they were…how human… the deeper and more tangled the jungle grew inside. But it wasn’t the jungle blacks brought with them to this place from the other (livable) place. It was the jungle whitefolks planted in them. And it grew. It spread….It spread, until it invaded the whites who had made it. Touched them every one. Changed and altered them. Made them bloody, silly, worse than even they wanted to be, so scared were they of the jungle they had made. The screaming baboon lived under their own white skin; the red gums were their own.”

“Nobody saw them falling.”

“Nobody saw them falling.”

“It was not a story to pass on.”
Profile Image for Murray.
Author 151 books547 followers
September 21, 2023
⛓️ I read this in NC when I was on a research study at Duke focused on African-American slavery. I read it on campus. First, the poetry of her writing style swept me away. Second, the strong and clear flow of her narrative was exhilarating and vigorous. Third, her courage, for the book is brave. Fourth, her compassion, for the pain and angst of the story, and it’s painful denouement, brought my tears for the things that have broken the human heart down through the thousands of years. A powerful book.

🌳 (Since that day I’ve watched many interviews and documentaries of her and I was crushed when she left us. She was, she is, a beautiful soul.)
Profile Image for Dolors.
540 reviews2,278 followers
November 17, 2020
You who read me keep your repugnance and horror to yourself. I am here to tell you my story with an iron smile under my chin. The men without skin stole my milk so my mother punished them with my blood. You don’t understand, her love was too thick. I was the already crawling baby waiting to be loved. I am Beloved.

Which kind of unimaginable atrocities can lead a mother to murder her own baby to spare it a certain life full of humiliation and wanton abuse?
How much suffering can a human being undergo before he loses touch with reality and turns to derangement as the only way to cope? But I do wonder, derangement or conscientious remembrance as a sort of self-inflicted punishment?

“Beloved” is a piercing cry of sorrow, angst and promise impregnated with magic realism which disrupts the mind and upsets the body. Set in the 1870s Ohio, this story reveals, in a disturbingly subtle and poignant way, the real value of freedom as opposed to a life of slavery.

Sethe’s has been an oppressed and undignified life, for she is a negro, and she is a woman. Baby Suggs, the mother of her spouse -only in the eyes of God- Halle, tries to warn her about the risks of being a slave woman and insisting on loving her children too dearly. But Sethe blooms with the seed of light which is growing inside her and plans an escape with her family to be able to love freely.
Until one fateful day, when the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, disguised as men without skin, come to take what they believe to be their right. They come to teach a lesson to these proud animals which have had the boldness to believe they can be human beings. It’s an arduous task.
They undermine the body and tear the flesh, proving their power and manhood, forcing their entrance.
They arise as the masters, squeezing all kind of fluxes from emaciated carcasses: urine, spit, blood and milk. But not tears, never tears. The fluxes blend into a streaming river of sorrow and lost hopes which will never reach the cleansing waters.
They wear out the spirit and subjugate the soul, chocking and chopping.
The hummingbirds sing, flapping their wings, and the sunbeams shine through the branches of the trees, which are now adorned with hanging limbless torsos. The natural world, which becomes the imperturbable setting for this irrational carnage, watches as an indifferent spectator.

There is no place to run away to but Sethe’s instinct to feed her children moves her towards a fragile safety where her baby daughter is born. Twenty-eight days of respite it’s all they are given, for the hunting hasn’t finished yet and the Horsemen come to claim their missed prey.
Now, I am not a mother and I don’t know whether I will ever be, but the dread of imagining the flesh of your flesh having to undergo such shaming and degrading misery has to be terrifying. Sethe’s love is too thick, and she can’t remember whether she has two or four feet, animal or human? The only thing she knows is that she can’t allow her children to go through the kind of hell she went through, she wants to spare them all. She only has time to spare one before she is stopped. Her Beloved.
A murderess?
Or a selfless, desperate act of a loving mother?

“Beloved” is the unfinished name that Sethe could afford to engrave in her baby’s tombstone after selling her body.
”Beloved” is also the haunting otherwordly presence and the only company that Sethe and her only remaining daughter, Denver, have in 124 Bluestone Road, after Baby Suggs dies and her two sons disappear one mundane evening.
The perturbing phantasmagorical presence of the killed baby, which at some point is inexplicably reincarnated in flesh, taking the form of a young and attractive woman who appears out of nowhere in Sethe’s porch, drenches the novel in myriads of ways.
”Beloved” is as threatening as she is reassuring.
”Beloved” portrays the perpetual symbol of an act of sheer love, reminding Sethe of her doleful past.
”Beloved” craves for nourishment not wanting to realize that Sethe’s milk has gone sour and is now poisoning what little is left of her humanity.

It is now up to Denver to try to atone for her mother’s sin and to Sethe to allow a blessed man from her past, Paul D., a kind of man who could walk in a house and make the women cry, to offer her the possibility of a future.

This is the sort of novel that defies words and syntax, challenging the reader to put the scabrous pieces together, forcing him to move forward and backward in time, for there isn’t another way to portray its brutish reality than to merge fantasy and facts, dreams and yearnings, magic rituals and ancestral beliefs into a single powerful voice, the voice of the guilty conscience, which becomes the ultimate narrator of the story.
The act of embracing the mystery doesn’t smooth any of the atrocities portrayed in this novel, although the lyrical prose and the symbolic patterns, challenging notions of life and death, make it possible to put across an overwhelming message of hope in the natural goodness of human beings.
An individual might not find enough strength in him to exorcise the ghosts from his past, to break free from his long life bondages, to recover from the nonhealing wounds of his soul. But when embraced by the nourishing arms of the community, when allowed to enter its collective memories and sorrows, he becomes miraculously empowered to banish his worst nightmares, to let go of the shame and the guilt.
A future, free from the shadow of slavery is possible then, where a so much coveted peace of mind can be envisioned, where the hummingbirds will sing and the sundrenched grass will gleam in harmony with smiling faces instead of iron grimaces and scarred necks.

“The future was sunset; the past something to leave behind. And if it didn’t stay behind, well, you might have to stomp it out. Slave life; freed life- every day was a test and a trial.” (page 256)

Disremembered and unaccounted for, I am not lost because no one is looking for me, and even if they were, they can’t call me, for I have no name. I am the girl and I am still waiting to be loved.
This is not a story to pass on.
This is a story to forget so that a new beginning can be born.
But I’m still here. I am “Beloved” and this story is mine.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for [P].
145 reviews525 followers
October 3, 2015
You know, sometimes I just don’t get other readers. I can’t relate to their reactions, their expectations, their way of looking at things. Take Beloved, a book that I have only ever part read, having given up about a third of the way into it. Reaction to the book seems to be about evenly split between those who hate it and those who love it. Which is fine, of course. Yet the haters appear to base their antipathy on the subject matter; they, according to the reviews I’ve read, have a problem with someone writing about slavery; they compose their reviews metaphorically throwing their hands around in wild fashion as if to keep this objectionable topic away. It’s as though Morrison was trying to convert them to Catholicism or something. I can’t get my head around it at all. Their argument, as far as I can gather, is that slavery was, y’know, a long time ago and we’re now entirely inclusive and lovely towards all people and so writing about slavery is tantamount to trying to make us [by which I mean white people] feel guilty for something that 1. we didn’t ourselves do and 2. we can’t control i.e. the colour of our skin. Honestly, go look around the web [including this site]; I’m not making this shit up.

What do you say to ignorant crap like that? Part of me would prefer to say nothing because I find it exhausting arguing against such obvious idiocy. But if I was forced to respond I might well state, first of all, that, uh, racism does actually still exist. And so the subject is, er, not entirely irrelevant. Secondly, even if it didn’t exist in our society, even if we were all living in multi-cultural hippy communes, what exactly would be wrong with someone writing about slavery and persecution? I might be wrong of course [I’m not], but I’m pretty sure Morrison didn’t put the necessary effort and time into writing a book just to make some twat in Milton Keynes feel guilty. If you ask me, I’d guess that it may be that, as a black woman, as a human being, she would be interested in exploring and understanding such a pivotal and lamentable part of [her/our] history.

For me, the point of writing a book like Beloved is to elevate a terrible part of history beyond mere statistics. Like with the holocaust, it’s easy sometimes to get lost in numbers, to forget that individual people were affected or perished. Beloved personalises slavery, which makes it easier for people-in-general to identify with the subject. I would say that is very important. As far as I’m concerned, we should not be allowed to forget, to push these things under the carpet. You cannot live in a vacuum, where history is meaningless except for passing exams and making a HBO mini-series. This stuff is part of who you are and continues to play a role in how the world, your world, works. And, yeah, I know what people say, which is that there are plenty of tragedies not given the same status, or attention; these people ask, why aren’t we talking about what happened in Bosnia, Serbia, Nigeria, etc? My response: stop whinging and write a book about those places/conflicts/tragedies, then.

However, I did, of course, quit Beloved without finishing it, although my doing so, my quitting, obviously had nothing to do with white guilt; my issues with the novel aren’t political ones, but, rather, they are bookish ones. I didn’t feel as though Toni Morrison was preaching at me, but I did feel as though the book was too heavy-handed and overwrought, and even cringingly trite and saccharine. In fact, the thing struck me as something like what Faulkner might have produced had you plied him full of E and asked him to write a chick-lit novel.

Just consider this line:

"Jump, if you want to, ‘cause I’ll catch you, girl. I’ll catch you ‘fore you fall."

And this:

"He leans over and takes her hand. With the other he touches her face. ‘You your best thing, Sethe. You are.’ His holding fingers are holding hers."

The most polite thing I can say about those two quotes is that neither strike me as good writing.

What about this:

"In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it. They don’t love your eyes; they’d just as soon pick em out. No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ’cause they don’t love that either. You got to love it, you! And no, they ain’t in love with your mouth. Yonder, out there, they will see it broken and break it again. What you say out of it they will not heed. What you scream from it they do not hear. What you put into it to nourish your body they will snatch away and give you leavins instead. No, they don’t love your mouth. You got to love it. This is flesh I’m talking about here. Flesh that needs to be loved."

I mean….dear God. And the thing is, I totally agree with the sentiment of almost everything in the above passage; it’s the presentation of that sentiment that bothers me.

Every sentence in Beloved aches [or creaks] with emotion, with meaning and significance; and, for me, the impact of the story, and the full horror of the subject that Morrison was dealing with, was compromised by that. Cards on the table, I found the book entirely ridiculous. Throughout my reading, I wanted on almost every page to tell her: tone it down, and let the story breathe a bit; I wanted to chide her: you’re trying too hard. I felt as though some of her choices weren’t made in order to serve the story, but because she was trying to impress. Ironically, for someone who, I think I am correct in saying, teaches or taught English literature or creative writing, I would say that she needed advice and guidance herself. Someone needed to look at the manuscript and take a red pen to it, with little notes in the margin saying 'is this necessary?'

What is strange about Beloved is that it is both saccharine and brutal. There’s a weird tension between the florid style, the sentimentality, and the subject matter and some of the content; it is a book that screams excess; everything is taken just a bit too far; Morrison displays a distinct inability to rein in it, and a lack of subtlety and control. So, one minute we’re getting told about how breast milk was forcibly harvested from Sethe, the next she and Paul D are sharing a tender moment, as he feels up the scars on her back and rambles on poetically-symbolically about a tree.

Probably the most glaring misstep in the novel occurs long after I gave up on it. Struggling badly to overcome my reservations about the quality of what I was reading, I had a look at some online reviews. It was then that I came across the opinions outlined in my initial paragraphs, but it was also then that I found out that the baby – the ghost baby, the slaughtered baby – at some point in the novel is apparently heard in the text; by which I mean that we have access to its thoughts or words. And, I, ah, I dunno about you, but that just seems ludicrous to me; it’s almost akin to gross incompetence or mishandling of your material. Why on earth would you do that? The fate of that child speaks loudly enough, all Toni Morrison is doing by giving it a voice [a stream of consciousness voice, I believe] is cranking up the melodrama to 1000. And I had a thought upon that discovery, a thought that ran: I’m not reading all this to get there.
Profile Image for Maria Espadinha.
1,027 reviews372 followers
July 22, 2022
Criança Número 3

124 não é uma casa normal!
124 não é um número qualquer!

124 é um código:

--- 1 e 2 são Howard e Buglar -- os primogénitos de Sethe

--- 4 corresponde a Denver -- a miúda mais nova.

--- o 3 inexistente simboliza a ausência da primeira filha, que já não se encontra entre os vivos. Porém, também ela reside na dita casa, embora num estado não visível aos demais.

Como já certamente inferiram, 124 é uma casa de família algo peculiar e insólita, pois um dos filhos -- Beloved -- só se manifesta em espírito, e até já espantou os dois irmãos machos, com as suas diabruras. Restam então Sethe e Denver, dado que Howard e Buglar já se puseram a cavar…

Beloved está a vingar-se duma morte prematura -- a vida fora-lhe roubada antes dos 2 anos, pela própria mãe, Sethe, que nascera escrava mas almejara morrer livre arriscando uma fuga gorada. Assim, pouco antes de ser recapturada, cortou a garganta da sua Beloved, tencionando aplicar semelhante receita aos restantes filhos; em seguida era suposto suicidar-se, abraçando a morte como única via de libertação. Porém, o tempo não lhe deu para tanto!...

A Sethe de que vos falo, é um misto de ficção e realidade. Foi inspirada na afro-americana Margaret Garner, e Beloved é a sua biografia ficcionada.
Quando penso no seu ato co-criado pelo desespero, sou incapaz dum veredicto.
Alguém disse um dia, sabiamente, que "são os pecados que nos punem", e eu permito-me acrescentar, não menos sabiamente 😉, que a memória é o seu melhor carrasco.
Por isso 124 está lá -- para recordar Sethe que já fora mãe de 4 filhos!...
Profile Image for Rowena.
501 reviews2,516 followers
May 31, 2016
"Working dough. Working, working dough. Nothing better than that to start the day's serious work of beating back the past."- Toni Morrison, Beloved

"Beloved" focuses on the psychological trauma of slavery which permeates the very atmosphere and even emerges in ghost form. It seems to be a good book to read in the light of the recent discussion on the Roots reboot, as well as the recent New York Times article which discusses how African-American DNA bears signs of slavery. I feel that for many this isn't too much of a surprise.

This was a tough read, even tougher the second time around. I never get used to books like this; if anything they get more painful as I become more and more aware of what slavery consisted of. One of the things that always gets to me when reading slave narratives is the burdens the slaves had to endure and with little to no help, but I'm learning about the little things they did to try to endure and survive. Some of their methods may not sound healthy, from our perspectives (for example, limiting love because you know that any time your family could be taken away from you), but this book shows us in many ways how unless we are in a certain situation, it's really impossible for us to know how we'll react to it.

At the beginning of the book, former slave Baby Suggs is contemplating colour, all because she is about to die and she has never had the time to do so before. The world of a slave is small and it doesn't belong to them. And even with freedom the past still haunts them:

"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."

Love is one of the themes in this book, and throughout I wondered whether love is ever enough to get over the past. Paul D and Sethe's love story is against the odds, with Paul D guarding his heart and Sethe still recovering from deaths, abuse, and children running away. Two very broken people, and Paul D with this sort of mentality:

"He would keep the rest where it belonged: in that tobacco tin buried in his chest where a red heart used to be. Its lid rusted shut. He would not pry it loose now in front of this sweet sturdy woman, for if she got a whiff of the contents it would shame him. And it would hurt her to know that there was no red heart bright as Mister's comb beating in him."

And Sethe:

"Would it be all right? Would it be all right to go ahead and feel? Go ahead and count on something?"

This time around I tried to focus more on the characters I didn't dwell on much in my first read, so Denver, Sethe's daughter, received more of my attention. I pictured her loneliness, loneliness that caused her to value the company of a ghost, which is why she clung to Beloved, who demands so much attention and affection.I ended up liking her character transformation the most:

"In that bower, closed off from the hurt of the hurt world, Denver's imagination produced its own hunger and its own food, which she badly needed because loneliness wore her out. Wore her out."

Pain is a given throughout the book, and I've been thinking a lot about the following quote: "Can't nothing heal without pain, you know." Such a hard truth and the characters in this book had so much more to heal from than the rest of us.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,481 reviews7,776 followers
September 29, 2015
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

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I realize this is a classic and a Pulitzer Prize winner and yada yada yada, but oh my goodness am I glad to be done.

Dear Oprah, what’s going to happen to me since I hated it????

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That’s what I was afraid of.

Going in to this book I knew nothing about it except for the fact that it was on the Banned Books List and that Oprah said I should read it . . .

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I did manage to finish, but WHAT. A. SLOG. There are only about 47,000,000 reviews out there and I kind of feel like I sacrificed 1,000 years of my reading this instead of just two days so I’m not going to hash and rehash every detail I didn’t like. Really, let’s face facts. No matter what reason I give for not liking this one there’s a good chance I’ll get trolled for daring to have an unpopular opinion so why bother? I will say that Beloved is the only book I can remember reading where I was in love with the story but hated the way it was told. (Sidenote: Beloved is realllllly strangely fitting if you’re someone still looking for a ghost story to add to your October reading list.) I think Toni Morrison’s writing style is one that you’re either going to love or hate. Obviously I fall in to the hate it category, but I’m glad I can say I finally read her. As for Beloved being touted one of the best books of all time???? Thanks for nothing, Oprah!

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Profile Image for Jason Pettus.
Author 24 books1,324 followers
September 12, 2008
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

The CCLaP 100: In which I read for the first time a hundred so-called "classics," then write reports on whether or not they deserve the label

Book #23: Beloved, by Toni Morrison (1987)

The story in a nutshell:
To understand the importance of 1987's Beloved, you need to understand that before this first novel of hers, author Toni Morrison was already a respected executive within the publishing industry, and a highly educated book-loving nerd; this is what made it so frustrating for her during the 1970s and '80s, after all, when trying to look back in history for older books detailing the historical black experience, and finding almost nothing there because of past industry discrimination, general withholding of education from blacks for decades, etc. This novel, then, is Morrison's attempt to partially right this wrong, loosely using a real historical record from the 1850s she once discovered when younger and obsessed upon for years, the story of a slave woman her age who once voluntarily killed her own child rather than let her be taken back to slave territory.

In Morrison's case, the novel is set in the decade following the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, up in Ohio (in the northern US) where so many former slaves fled during the so-called "Reconstruction" of the American South in those years. As such, the actual plotline resembles the beginnings of what we now call "magical realism," a style that has become virtually its own new sub-genre in literary fiction in the last twenty years; because not only is this woman's house haunted by a violent poltergeist, but eventually even a young woman appears claiming to be Beloved herself, the bizarre revenge-seeking reincarnated version of the very daughter this woman killed during the Civil War years. But is she? Or is she a runaway taking chance advantage of intimate knowledge she randomly happened to learn through odd circumstances? And does it matter? Just as is the case with most great postmodern literature, Beloved actually tackles a lot of different bigger issues in a metaphorical way, perhaps the more important point altogether than the details of the magical part of the plot, which never does get fully resolved in a definitive way even by the end; it is instead a novel about love, about family, about responsibility, about the struggle between innate intelligence and a formal education. It is ultimately a book about the black experience, a sophisticated and complex look at some of the emotional issues people from that time period must've had to struggle with, Morrison writing their stories for them precisely because none of them were allowed to back then, or were given the education to express themselves in such an eloquent way; and as such, it's not really the "ghost" part of this ghost-story that is important at all, but rather that it serves as a convenient coat-rack in which to hang all these other issues.

The argument for it being a classic:
Well, for starters, it won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize, and when was the last time you won a Pulitzer, chump? Much more important than that, though, say its fans, it heralded a whole new sea-change in the global arts altogether; a triumphant moment for both black artists and women artists (and especially black women artists), a story that not only speaks powerfully and intimately to all people with that background, but that proves to the rest of the world that it's not just stuffy white dudes who can write beautiful, haunting, instantly classic literature. It's a major highlight of the postmodern period, say historians, a changing of the guard just as important as when the early Modernists shut down the Victorian Age; this one novel and its overwhelming success single-handedly ushered in a whole new golden period for the arts concerning people of color, women, the gay community and more. And not only that, but so far it's held up well too; it was not only made into an extremely high-profile movie ten years later, starring and produced by The Great And Almighty Oprah Hallowed Be Her Name Amen, but in 2006 was named by the New York Times as the very best American novel of the last 25 years.

The argument against:
A weak one, frankly; it seems that most people who read this book end up loving it, and with very little dissent found online. And a controversial argument, too; because the argument against this book being a classic seems mostly to be the anti-politically-correct argument, that books such as these got as much attention as they did in the '80s, '90s and '00s merely because the overly liberal academic community had a political agenda back then, that they were determined to usher in a new golden age for writers of color and women and the gay community, even if they had to falsely trumpet a whole series of merely okay books, or sometimes even semi-crappy ones. It's an argument more often applied to other, lesser books than Beloved, frankly; but like other books in the CCLaP 100 series, you can technically argue that this book started the entire trend, was the one that led to the lesser books afterwards that people complain about in a more valid way. I'm not sure how much water this holds, but you do see people arguing this point online.

My verdict:
So in many ways, this week's book very directly illustrates why I wanted to start this essay series in the first place this year, of why I first thought it good for my own life that I tackle all these so-called "classics" for the first time, and only then thought, "Oh yeah, and I could write essays about the experience afterwards too." Because I admit, as a white male with a Modernist education, I was raised as biased against books like these, and in fact until they started appearing in the '80s and '90s was one of those people who never even thought about their conspicuous absence from world classic/canon lists in the first place. Plus, I'm predisposed to dislike the so-called "ebonics" on display here in Beloved, an aspect of this book that continues to be controversial; that is, Morrison wrote all the dialogue here as actual barely-educated former slaves in the 1870s would've actually talked, making it difficult to follow along and requiring close attention while reading, a decision that some "Western Classics" style professors have accused of being damaging to the arts in the long term, and another bad legacy of the politically-correct years.

But then again, let's plainly admit that I have absolutely loved reading all these old Victorian novels that I have through the CCLaP 100 this year as well, of looking back on the nerdy little overdressed white people who were my very ancestors and seeing how they talked, behaved, what they found important, what they fretted about when the doors were closed, feeling that connection between them and myself, feeling that except for the wardrobe and funky flowery language we were actually quite alike. When thought about this way, suddenly one has a lot of empathy for what Morrison and other intelligent, educated black women went through in pre-Beloved days; they simply wanted to have the same experience I've been having with Victorian literature this year, frustratingly couldn't because of no literature from smart educated black women even existing from those years, so realized that they were going to have to write it themselves. And also when looking at it this way, you realize that the ebonics of Beloved is no worser at all than, say, the Romanticism of Nathaniel Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables; both are old-fashioned language, hard for modern eyes to follow, yet historically accurate and reflecting what those times were actually like. Both require patience, both require forgiveness, but both can offer up richly rewarding experiences if taken seriously and if meeting the author halfway.

It's this essay series, this newfound attention to the historical classics, that is making my brain suddenly work in these new ways this year, to have a more patient and more expansive view of any particular project I tackle; like I said, that's the whole reason I decided to read a hundred classics in the first place, is to hopefully learn something from it, since so many people are always arguing that there's something unique and important to be learned from "reading the classics." It's why I call Beloved today an undeniable classic itself, one of the top-20 titles in fact of this entire CCLaP 100 list, why it turned out to be such a profoundly great book but only once I was ready to accept it on its own terms, and once understanding the real history it references. It gets an extremely high recommendation from me today.

Is it a classic? Yes
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