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.
"Mercurial imagination and brilliantly elegant prose...She has the ability to shock and entrance, episode by episode, which is the hallmark of a genuine writer" (The Guardian)
"Toni Morrison's writing is a train that knows where it's going, fierce and fast-moving in narrative, lyrically showy in description" (Sunday Times) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
The novel powerfully portrays the meanings of what it means to be owned by another and the difficulty of owning oneself. Mythic in scope, Beloved is an attempt to grapple with the legacy of slavery.
With a new introduction by A S Byatt--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From the Publisher
With a new introduction by A S Byatt
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From the Back Cover
WINNER OF THE NOBEL PRIZE FOR LITERATURE
'A magnificent achievement... An American masterpiece' A. S. Byatt, Guardian
Terrible, unspeakable things happened to Sethe at Sweet Home, the farm where she lived as a slave for so many years until she escaped to Ohio. Her new life is full of hope but eighteen years later she is still not free. Sethe's new home is not only haunted by the memories of her past but also by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.
'A triumph' Margaret Atwood, New York Times Review of Books
See also: Disgrace Reading Guide Edition--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.