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Beloved (Vintage Classics) Paperback – 6 Dec 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics (6 Dec. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099511657
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099511656
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (125 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 637 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 --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

Review

"A magnificent achievement...an American masterpiece" (A.S. Byatt Guardian)

"[Beloved] has left the realm of fiction and become a force of nature" (Guardian)

"A triumph" (Margaret Atwood New York Times Book Review)

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

"Toni Morrison is not just an important contemporary novelist but a major figure in our national literature" (New York Review of Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 56 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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7 of 7 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Pelagius on 10 Sept. 2014
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
What a pleasure to read a great modern novel.

The American Toni Morrison won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. Beloved, her fifth book, was inspired by a true story about a slave-mother in the mid-nineteenth century (called Sethe in the novel), who escaped across the river Ohio to the free city of Cincinnati, just before the Civil War.

There are four principal voices, about whom we learn as much from how they talk as what they say. There is a shocking central narrative, which darts back and forth in time like the unfolding of a shared trauma in group psychoanalytic sessions. The African-Americans who tell the story are profoundly instinctive and generally terrified of 'whitepeople', who are usually seen as non-human.

Other characters are also brought to life, such as the slave-owner, 'Schoolteacher', or the old-timer and ex-slave, 'Stamp Paid'. Though hers is not the pivotal character in the story, Sethe's daughter Denver became (for me) the anchor, as the most sympathetic and rounded person, who eventually frees herself from mental subjugation.

Ghosts are flesh and blood entities in Beloved. Sethe's daughter (called Beloved) reappears after many years, despite having been killed when an infant by her mother, who did not want her baby to be captured by a vicious slave-owner. This incident had led to Sethe and her family being shunned by their community. As in South Africa under apartheid, oppression can lead not to solidarity amongst the oppressed but to fierce mutual suspicion. This feels more realistic than the somewhat simplistic characterisations in the Oscar-winning film, 12 Years A Slave.

Occasionally the novel can be obscure. But this minor fault is massively outweighed by the imaginative writing which brings to life the hemmed-in and yet freely-roaming mindsets of the central characters.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Graz Roz on 19 Feb. 2012
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read two books by Tony Morrison: The Bluest Eye was the first one, and three years later, Beloved. For a strange coincidence, both times, I was well advanced in the book reading, when I got down with a flu. This is not to introduce a spooky argument, but just to explain how I actually suffered and grieved all along with the books characters. Their sorrow mingled with my physical pain, becoming somehow even more real. Anyway, despite my throbbing headache and my stinging eyes, I couldn't put the book down. It was that riveting.
Beloved is a book that stays with you for a while after you turned the last page. It is a hard book to read. For me, as a non-English native speaker, the first difficulty was of course the dense vocabulary, the descriptions of places, atmospheres, flavors so rich of details (many unfortunately unfamiliar to me). The second difficulty was the constant change of scenario. The author keeps going back and forth in time, changing the perspective from which the story is told. It seems as though, every 3 pages, the reader is thrown into a different and unfamiliar setting, and every time it takes a while to become again acquainted with the situation, and understand which character is now telling the story and where the event is chronologically situated. Each page/event is like a precious piece of a complex jigsaw puzzle, beautifully pictured, with unforgettable lyrical passages. But always a piece, and we are not allowed, until the end, to know where it fits. Halfway through the book, I thought this technique was slightly abused, and I felt tired and even annoyed. Then, towards the end, I read this passage:
"[...] That anybody white could take your whole self for anything that came to mind. Not just work, kill or maim you, but dirty you.
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