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?