When Toni Morrison’s Nobel Prize winning book Beloved came into my hands I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. What I got was a stunning fragmented narrative, that plays with metaphor and history. Various scenes have a dreamlike quality though, which might confuse some readers.
In her foreword Toni Morrison explains that she wrote Beloved at a time when she was pondering “what ‘free’ could possibly mean to women… inevitably these thoughts led me to the different history of black women in this country”. She convey the horrors of this period very effectively in her novel, but she also has something to say about the way in which we ‘remember’ slavery (or rather the ways in which we don’t).
There’s more of us they drowned than there is all of them ever lived from the start of time. Lay down your sword. This ain’t a battle; it’s a rout.
– Baby Suggs.
Disremembered and unaccounted for, she [Beloved] cannot be lost because no one is looking for her, and even if they were, how can they call her if they don’t know her name?
The historical setting lent credence to the supernatural elements; the book felt immediate, real and repellant. (This one had my heart in knots from the very first page; I’m not sure how I feel about this being read in schools – infanticide and rape both feature.) Sethe is one of the most interesting main characters I have seen and the secondary characters (Denver, Paul D, Baby Suggs etc) were all well drawn; the dialogue in Beloved impressed me.
My favourite part is probably the appearance of Beloved at 124: I missed all the metaphors in this scene on my first read through, but thoroughly enjoyed them on my second. Toni Morrison is a wonderful writer who has honed her craft to the perfect pitch for the story. So if you’re looking for strong writing, characters who walk off the page, a compelling plot and something to make you think, then look no further… But be warned, this author lands all of her punches.
We got more yesterday than anybody. We need some kind of tomorrow. – Paul D
My Rating: ☼☼☼☼
My Vote For Worst Cover (Edition):