Book 6: Beloved, Toni Morrison

It is the mid-1800s. At Sweet Home in Kentucky, an era is ending as slavery comes under attack from the abolitionists. The worlds of Halle and Paul D. are to be destroyed in a cataclysm of torment and agony. The world of Sethe, however, is to turn from one of love to one of violence and death – the death of Sethe’s baby daughter Beloved, whose name is the single word on the tombstone, who died at her mother’s hands, and who will return to claim retribution.

 

I first came across this book about four years ago when I was meant to study it for a first year English course I was taking called Literature of Revolution. I’ll readily admit that I struggled. I only got through about a third of it before putting it aside, and then never picked it up again. I only picked it up again this year when I again had to study it for another English course (a different one) last semester. I was able to get through it a little easier this time (having read the first section before, so it made more sense when re-reading that part) but it was still hard.

I’m honestly not sure how I should talk about Beloved, so I think I’ll just start with what I liked. First and foremost is the writing itself. Morrison writes beautiful prose, absolutely beautiful. If you ever get the chance, you should definitely read some of Morrison’s work just for the beauty of her words. Another thing is the characters in Beloved. You get an amazing sense of each different character. I’m still not sure if I like any of the characters completely (probably Denver I like the most), but you certainly get distinct well-rounded characters, right down to the house itself. 124 essentially becomes a character in its own right. There are three parts to the book and each part begins with the house: “124 was spiteful.” (page 3), “124 was loud.” (page 199), “124 was quiet.” (page 281). I think “124 was spiteful.” is still one of the best opening sentences to a novel that I’ve come across. It really does set up the entire story to come.

Then there’s the subject matter and time period that the novel is set in. It’s set just after the Civil War in America, and slavery has ended. It probably helped that only a couple of months before reading this I had done an American History course about this particularly period, so I found that part of it fascinating.

However. I’m still not sure how I feel about Beloved as a whole. I certainly can’t say I enjoyed it (although I do think that’s actually part of what Morrison was trying to do. It’s not meant to be enjoyable), and I probably won’t be reading it again anytime soon. But I am glad that I read it. There are some books that I read and don’t enjoy and kind of wish I hadn’t bothered (Virginia Woolf is jumping to mind), and then there are the ones I don’t particularly enjoy but am still glad that I experienced. Beloved falls into the latter category.

So while I didn’t particularly enjoy Beloved, I would still recommend reading it. Struggle through it, perservere with it, and think about the messages Morrison is putting out there. I did, and I’m proud of myself for sticking with it. Because Beloved might not be a fun read but I think it’s an important read.

 

Check out Toni Morrison’s Facebook page to keep up to date with her work.

You can also check out Beloved on Goodreads, and order it from Amazon or Booktopia.

 

Books left: 144

Days left: 547

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2 Comments

  1. I had to muddle through Beloved in my AP Lit class in high school, but if I wasn’t forced to finish it, I probably wouldn’t have on my own either.

    I can’t say Beloved is one of my favorite books, but I remember loving the characters even if it made me so depressed reading it because, oh man, were their lives horrible. Which I guess is why Toni Morrison and Beloved are awesome: they’re real (in the case of Beloved, they represent real people and real struggles and I guess I can appreciate it for that).

    Reply
    • Yeah, if it wasn’t for the fact that it came up again in another course I probably never would have finished it on my own.

      It’s definitely not one of my favourite books either, and I don’t know if I’ll ever read it again (or if I do, it won’t be for a very long time, lol). And yeah, wow, it’s depressing. So very, very depressing.

      Reply

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