Tuesday 12 May 2009

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Pages - 323
Published by Vintage, Random House in 2005, first published in Britain in 1987.

Challenges - 100+ books, A to Z Author and 1% Well Read.

This is a story set in the mid 1800's when slavery was on the verge of abolition. The story deals with the inhabitants of Sweet Home Farm in Kentucky, where up until the death of the owner, the slaves have been treated reasonably well. After the owner's death, the brother in law arrives and the slaves are subjected to cruel and despicable acts. They all decide to escape where they can be free. Sethe, a young slave girl married to Halle, sends her children ahead of her to live with Halle's mother whose freedom he bought by working extra hours. Soon after, fearing for the life of Halle, Sethe follows her children with dramatic events occurring on her journey. She nearly dies on her way there, her wounds constantly bleeding where she has been beaten so hard and heavily pregnant she gives birth on her journey. Her arrival at Baby Suggs house, allows her for a certain period to believe that she is free and that her children will never suffer what other slaves have suffered before them. Until the brother in law finds them and rather than let him take her children, she kills one of them, her oldest daughter barely a toddler. She murders her with her own hands and saves the rest of the children from being taken. Sethe saves them, but never saves herself, because Beloved comes back to haunt her. Firstly just as a ghost, but when Paul D chases the spirit out of the house, only to have her return in flesh and blood for retribution.

Wow what a powerful book! Do you ever read a book, sitting comfortably in your own house, with the freedom to eat what you want, read what you want and basically do as you please and feel very guilty about the life you have when in the not too distant past and definitely still in parts of the world other just don't have the privileges you take for granted. Well this is one of those books that takes you to that place, where you come away from it feeling humbled by all that you really have. That really all your minor worries and troubles are actually nothing in comparison to the suffering of others.

I now can clearly see why this book is listed as one of the 1000 books you should read before you die and I highly recommend that you do.
I can't say it was an easy read, especially at the beginning where I found myself constantly rereading sections where I found confusion reigned. At one point, I nearly stopped reading it as I kept getting confused as to where in the story they were writing about as the story flicked backwards and forwards between the past and the present without clear indication of it doing so. But I did not give in, and by the arrival of the mysterious Beloved I knew where I was with the story.

There are parts that are harsh and clearly written to shock, which is something I always find difficult to read, but I didn't give up.

The following passages from a speech by Baby Suggs really hit home with me. Her words are just so powerful.

'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.'

'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.'
A very powerful read, with very strong characters appearing throughout the book. I really enjoyed it and will definitely read some of Toni Morrison's other books.
Have you read this? Have you read any of Toni Morrison's other books?


  1. I really love this review. Will add this book to my TBR. Great review!

  2. I knew I had heard of Toni Morrison - so I googled her and realised that The Bluest Eye was the book I studied as part of my access course before uni. I have to say it was a very disturbing read - obviously very well written and it really stayed with me - but a difficult subject.

  3. I know how you feel! This book blew me away. Some parts were indeed very shocking, but I think it was intentional, so that we don't forget how things really were like back then.

  4. Hi!
    Thanks for the review. This book is on my TBR list. Thanks for stopping by. Have a great evening!


  5. I really loved this book. Great review. Thanks!

  6. I read this last year or possibly the year before. I don't remember. It was very powerful though, one of those books that leaves you with a feeling you can't shake for ages afterwards.

    I've read a few other books of Toni Morrison's - The Bluest Eye, Sula and A Mercy. All very good.

  7. What a wonderful review! I've wanted to read this book for a while, but always hesitate as I know it won't be an easy read. Of course, those ones that aren't easy are often the very best reads of all. Thanks for the review.

  8. What agreat review I am adding it to my TBR list right away. What a fantastic blog, I am going to become a follower. Jay xx

  9. whoo, i am so glad I got to read your blog and see that we are both doing the Southern Challenge. I picked 4 books but will see what happens.

    On the subject of Toni Morrison, just got done reading Bluest Eye and found it difficult but gripping at the same time (sounds crazy). I think all of Toni's novels come across that way -- they deal with harsh realities but the writing is so eloquent (not even sure thats an apt description). I borrowed Beloved from the library but never read it -- beginning turned me off -- not sure I will ever read but but will keep it in mind, just in case. Thanks for sharing.

  10. I read this years ago and remember loving it. Have you read The Bluest Eye? That's another that I really liked.

  11. What an awesome review, definitely caught my interest. Thanks

  12. I've always wanted to get this book and looks like I had better do so. :D

  13. Certainly not an easy read! It actually sounds like a painful one and also one that would put me in a reading slump afterwards. My mom has read a few of Morrison's books but I've only read The Bluest Eye... or actually listened to it on audio (before I started following along in the book when I listened to an audio) but I don't remember very much about it.

  14. I LOVE Toni Morrison. This was my first of her books, followed by Sula, A Mercy and The Bluest Eye, all of which are very good. I intend to read all of her books (I own them all) but savouring them slowly. Next I plan to read Song of Solomon as it is also one of the 1000 Books You Must Read (Guardian).

  15. I read Sula by the same author and she is such a talent.
    Glad you enjoyed Beloved, great review ;)
    Have you seen the film version? It was very good, a bit scary. Oprah plays the mother.

  16. Your review really has me wanting to re-read this book! I read it when the movie came out about 10 years ago and to be honest I think I was too young to really appreciate the writing and the material. All of Morrison's books that I've read have really made me appreciate the life I have, though. It could be so much more difficult.

  17. I read this one when Anne Rice recommended it on her site. I was the same, had to reread over and over to understand where I was but it is so worth it. You did it justice with this review.


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