Book Review: Beloved by Toni Morrison

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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.

Favourite line:

We got more yesterday than anybody. We need some kind of tomorrow. – Paul D

Favourite phrase:

Ticking time.

My Rating: ☼☼☼☼

My Vote For Worst Cover (Edition):

Does anyone else have a problem with the model on this cover?!

Does anyone else have a problem with the model on this cover?!

25 thoughts on “Book Review: Beloved by Toni Morrison

      • I read another of Toni Morrison’s work, A Mercy, for a contemporary literature class. It was good, but my professor kept on saying how much better Beloved was. She thought Beloved was over taught, though, and she wanted to introduce us to less popular works.

      • Sorry, I just saw this comment!
        I remember liking it; also that the writing seemed a bit detached and it was quite hard to read subject-matter wise (I think because of some violence, but I’m not sure.)
        It was a good three years ago, though.

  1. Oh, I think I missed all the metaphors during Beloved’s appearance too. Now have to reread this section.

    And what an awful cover that one is…it looks like some YA romance.

    • Yep! I totally thought of Fallen when I saw it.
      Think of a newborn baby when you read that opening scene (about 1/3 of the way into the book) and it will all click into place immediately. It’s worth the reread. 🙂

    • Yes, it’s definitely one that requires you’re full attention, or you get lost pretty quickly. It’s also a daylight read – I couldn’t read some of things her characters experience in the dark. 😦

  2. Great review, Annie! I read this book a long, long time ago, so the details are probably pretty iffy for me by now, but I remember being blown away by the writing as well as by the tragic events themselves. I’ve read several Toni Morrison books, mostly older (The Bluest Eye used to be taught in high schools, not sure if it still is; I’ve also read Sula and Paradise, and maybe a couple of others). Her use of words and language is incredible, but you’re right, it demands your full attention. That cover! Horrible, and it cracks me up.

  3. Her language usage is wonderful but so is her plotting – the way the vale is slowly pulled back to reveal the past and the truth about the present. I’m actually thinking of reading Sula next (when I work my way back around to Toni’s work), what did you think of it?

  4. This sounds so beautiful and poetically written! I actually hadn’t heard of this one before, but it sounds amazing.

    And that cover is the WORST. LOL. How did become an actual cover??

  5. Hi! New to your great blog. I read “Beloved” ages ago. I agree the cover is strange for several reasons. The model is “strained” sideways and she’s nearly white… Very weird for such a story. This is a modern classic. I enjoyed your review!

  6. New York Times described this book as the “best work of fiction of the last 30 years”. I must say I agree completely. But unfortunately, this is the only Toni Morrison work I have read till date.

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