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Beloved Mass Market Paperback – 21 Aug 1997

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (21 Aug. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099760118
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099760115
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,978 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Toni Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. She is the author of many novels, including The Bluest Eye, Beloved (made into a major film), Paradise and Love. She has also received the National Book Critics Circle Award and a Pulitzer Prize for her fiction.

Product Description

Amazon Review

In the troubled years following the Civil War, the spirit of a murdered child haunts the Ohio home of a former slave. This angry, destructive ghost breaks mirrors, leaves its fingerprints in cake icing, and generally makes life difficult for Sethe and her family; nevertheless, the woman finds the haunting oddly comforting for the spirit is that of her own dead baby, never named, thought of only as Beloved.

A dead child, a runaway slave, a terrible secret--these are the central concerns of Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize-winning Beloved. Morrison, a Nobel laureate, has written many fine novels, including Song of Solomon, The Bluest Eye, and Paradise--but Beloved is arguably her best. To modern readers, antebellum slavery is a subject so familiar that it is almost impossible to render its horrors in a way that seems neither clichéd nor melodramatic. Rapes, beatings, murders, and mutilations are recounted here, but they belong to characters so precisely drawn that the tragedy remains individual, terrifying to us because it is terrifying to the sufferer. And Morrison is master of the telling detail: in the bit, for example, a punishing piece of headgear used to discipline recalcitrant slaves, she manages to encapsulate all of slavery's many cruelties into one apt symbol--a device that deprives its wearer of speech. "Days after it was taken out, goose fat was rubbed on the corners of the mouth but nothing to soothe the tongue or take the wildness out of the eye." Most importantly, the language here, while often lyrical, is never overheated. Even as she recalls the cruelties visited upon her while a slave, Sethe is evocative without being overemotional: "Add my husband to it, watching, above me in the loft--hiding close by--the one place he thought no one would look for him, looking down on what I couldn't look at at all. And not stopping them--looking and letting it happen.... And if he was that broken then, then he is also and certainly dead now." Even the supernatural is treated as an ordinary fact of life: "Not a house in the country ain't packed to its rafters with some dead Negro's grief. We lucky this ghost is a baby," comments Sethe's mother-in-law.

Beloved is a dense, complex novel that yields up its secrets one by one. As Morrison takes us deeper into Sethe's history and her memories, the horrifying circumstances of her baby's death start to make terrible sense. And as past meets present in the shape of a mysterious young woman about the same age as Sethe's daughter would have been, the narrative builds inexorably to its powerful, painful conclusion. Beloved may well be the defining novel of slavery in America, the one that all others will be measured by. --Alix Wilber


"[A] triumph. Indeed, Ms Morrison's versatility and technical and emotional range appear to know no bounds. If there were any doubts about her stature as a pre-eminent American novelist, of her own or any other generation, Beloved will put them to rest" (New York Times Book Review)

"She melds horror and beauty in a story that will disturb the mind forever" (Sunday Times)

"A magnificent achievement... An American masterpiece" (Guardian)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Teacher Girl on 7 May 2009
Format: Paperback
I had never heard of Toni Morrison before this book was suggested as the next read at my book club, although she has been honoured with a Nobel Prize for Literature. After reading "Beloved" I can see why she won the Pulitzer Prize for this haunting novel. The book is written in a style which is at first hard to get used to, and I found the first eighty pages or so challenging. However, the beauty and poetry of the narrative is penetrating, and perfectly contrasts with the brutality of the plot.
The novel revolves around Sethe: her struggle for freedom from the oppressive and highly disturbing life that she leads as a slave, and the shocking and heartbreaking decision she comes to in order to 'save' her children from such a life. When a stranger arrives at her door the lives of Sethe and those closest to her are changed forever.
"Beloved" is a novel which has stayed with me long after I read the last page, and is a must-read for any serious literature lover.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mick Read on 6 Aug. 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I found this novel rewarding and difficult in equal measure; there is no reason why anything worthwhile should be easy, so the questions for me are does the reward warrant the difficulty and why did Morrison choose such an approach to telling this story.

Why did I find Beloved difficult? Well, I think it was because I never really knew where I was in time. The place was always straightforward enough, I always knew where I was; the characters and their relationships were clearly identified, I could even just about handle the paranormal elements as they slowly unfurled, but, at times, I never really knew which part of the story I was in, as Morrison time-slices and drip-feeds us a little more of the background each time. What ultimately held it together for me was the willpower of the characters themselves, not just Sethe but some minor characters too.

So did the reward overcome that difficulty and, if it did, how?

Well, the reward for me was significant and overwhelmingly worthwhile. Amongst the cautious revelation of more and more of the true horrors of slavery, the mental and physical torment and torture, the sense of fatal destiny that became apparent to children at such a frightfully young age, Morrison nevertheless weaves love, a sense of caring and community and, remarkably, hope.

Morrison opens with a statement of hope by starting the novel in 1873, the civil war is over and the anti-slavery Union is victorious. It is far from that simple of course and the principal characters all have a past steeped in the extremes of slavery's horrors, and that background continues to haunt the story throughout.

Sethe, in her late thirties, is living with her 18-year-old daughter, Denver, in a house that the neighbours avoid because it is haunted.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 15 Sept. 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of 1988, Toni Morrison frees herself from the bonds of traditional narrative and establishes an independent style, just as her characters have freed themselves from the horrors of slavery and escaped from Kentucky to Ohio. Revealing the story of Sethe and her family as they survive the brutality of the farm, only to encounter torments even more punishing than whippings after they escape, Morrison presents scenes in a seemingly random order, each scene revealing some aspect of life for Sethe, her boys, her dead baby Beloved, and the new baby Denver, both in the past and in the present. Moving back and forth, around, and inside out through Sethe's recollections, she gradually reveals Sethe's story to the reader, its horror increasing as the reader makes the connections which turn disconnected scenes into a powerful and harrowing chronology.

As the novel opens, Sethe and Denver have lived in #124, a house in Ohio, for eighteen years, refusing to socialize and enjoying no company. When Paul D. Garner, one of the Sweet Home men and a friend of her long-missing husband, arrives on her doorstep and moves in, Sethe slowly reveals her long-buried nightmares, and the two share their stories of the events leading up to their escape. Most haunting to Sethe is the death of her young daughter Beloved, shortly after the escape from the farm, though the reader does not know for many pages the shocking manner of her death. When a ghostly figure who calls herself Beloved arrives at #124, shortly after Paul D., Morrison creates mystery and a heart-stoppingly tense atmosphere, when Beloved, too, moves in. As Beloved gradually takes over the household and seems to demand and then possess Sethe's soul, the sorrow which has burdened Sethe seems close to breaking her.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Fp Green on 13 April 2013
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I felt I must write a review of this book as it is a first rate novel and in my view, a bucket list book. Along with To Kill a mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye.

Sidetracked by the fact that anybody could give this book a one star review, i found myself reading all the one star reviews and sadly, it seemed to centre on people finding the book too difficult to read or unduly complicated.

To address those issues, i would say my husband started the book before me and said it was really hard to get into. So when i picked it up I was expecting it to be hard and instead, i found it easier than i had expected. It does involve a sort of freefall approach.

Its a bit like living in a family who don't speak about their past, and every now and then you pick up a snippet of the story and you put it together yourself. There is no A to B, just a lot of talk and eventually you know all the story, bit by bit.

Luckily, the main character, Sethe, is immediately engaging and I always wanted to listen out for her story, so it was no trouble to me to put my questions aside, wait my patience and gradually learn her life history. The novel left me worried, many times, that I might not remember the questions I had, might not answer them all. But in the end, it did. Either by allusion or directly telling me, i learned everything.

It IS NOT the story of a haunting as some people seem to think. It is the story of a haunted past. A race of people treated like animals until they act like animals. You got two feet not four feet. A dog whipped to a frenzy so the dog can't be trusted to not to bite. (to paraphrase).

The residents of 124 are living in an angry house filled with the voices and presence of the dead.
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