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50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lasting and Luminous
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...
Published on 7 May 2009 by Teacher Girl

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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Asks a lot of the reader.
Toni Morrison writes with dignity and compassion. Having seen her interviewed I judge her to be a person rich in humility and grace. To criticise her work therefor seems over censorious, but I found "Beloved" wanting in some regards. The story of the main protagonist, Seth, and the horrors she and her friends endured as US slaves during the 19th century is told...
Published on 2 Feb 2001 by J. Beevers


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50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lasting and Luminous, 7 May 2009
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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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "That woman is crazy, [but] ain't we all?", 15 Sep 2007
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Beloved (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.

The sadism of some slave-owners, the devices used to torture, and the desperate measures some slaves took to protect themselves and their loved ones come fully alive here, the horrors growing as the reader gradually discovers the real source of Sethe's torment. By forcing the reader to make the connections, instead of spelling out details in a traditional narrative, Morrison strengthens the impact of the novel and its brutal revelations. Symbols of water, rain, snow, and ice connect the disparate scenes, and the use of shadows and the ghostly character of Beloved keep the reader on tenterhooks until the action is eventually resolved. A powerful, atmospheric, and shocking novel, Beloved is also a searing indictment of slavery and the damage it has done to the fabric of life, damage that cannot be repaired until it is fully recognized through novels such as this. Mary Whipple
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing., 14 Nov 2000
This review is from: Beloved (Mass Market Paperback)
Disturbing, haunting, frightening, as the narrator peels away the layers of hurt and pain. Not for the hard hearted, or feint hearted. Brilliant.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Challenging and Rewarding from Morrison, 6 Aug 2009
This review is from: Beloved (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. Sethe and Denver live in an uneasy truce with the ghost until the arrival of Paul D, one of Sethe's former fellow slaves on the Sweet Home plantation in Kentucky. Paul exorcises the ghost, but then a mysterious female stranger shows up. She is young and curiously unmarked - she has no lines in her palms, for example, and her feet and clothing show no signs of hard travelling. She calls herself "Beloved ", and Sethe and Denver are happy to take her in. Beloved is the single word carved on the headstone of Sethe's other, long dead daughter.

What about the question of Morrison's approach. Well I think she uses it because we learn the whole story as the principal characters learn it themselves. When Paul D arrives at 124 he has twenty years of Sethe's life to catch up on, and vice versa. We find out a little more about Sethe's journey as Paul D discovers it, and this is accomplished by flashback, snippets of rekindled memory, rememorising as Denver call it. Morrison uses this technique to draw us into the story and be a part of the discovery process.

Aside from the tale, it is still, perhaps, difficult for us to accept that as recently as the second half of the nineteenth century slavery of this brutality was a commonplace and pretty much any atrocity you might imagine happened to someone at some time, Morrison simply lets her imagination roam into some pretty ugly situations. At the centre of the story, however, lies perhaps the most horrific incident of all, and the most difficult to contemplate because it is not driven by blind hate or human indifference but by the deepest and most unbreakable of all emotions, a mother's love for her child.

But wanting to leave this on a lighter note, there is some fun and humour here too. In an early passage, Paul D notes,

"If a Negro got legs he ought to use them. Sit down too long, somebody will figure out a way to tie them up."
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story full of Vengance, 7 Feb 2004
This review is from: Beloved (Mass Market Paperback)
The decision to read this book is possibly up there with my decision to attend university.
I have never before read a book that is so uniquely written. Morrison brilliantly chose a circular narrative to distract the reader from a linear progression through time. The three part structure is representative of an exorcism of the crimes of the past. The develoving relationship between Sehte and Paul D, a question of whether 'the people' can come together and heal as one.
Denver, the future.
Beloved, the past.
This book not only scratches but disects the issue of slavery in the 'deep South.' It battles with the massive themes of time and identity.
Toni Morrison illustrates so perfectly that we are where we are because of the path behind us.
Written in a beautiful style that can only make you hungry for more. A sort of 'Pulp Fiction' style (for you movie guru's) this story often jumps from present to past and from past to present to show that the past is part of us as much as anything.
This is a really sad story that can make you really reflect on some home truths. Inspired by the story of Margaret Garner, it is my feeling that not only is this a 'must have' but 'Beloved' lingers under your skin long after you put the book down.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Epic Novel, 13 April 2013
By 
Fp Green "faysiegr" (Susssex, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Beloved (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. If something falls off a shelf its the dead baby's spirit. etc etc. This is metaphysical and self dellusionary rather than supernatural. (most likely) The superstitious neighbourhood all believe the house to be haunted and the people inside are shunned thus become stranded. When an external presence turns up (becomes new boyfriend) Sethe is no longer alone. Embittered by their past, both he and Sethe have their hearts locked up - he is said to have a tobacco tin, locked tight, where his heart used to be. In their world, few women, mothers, had children on whom they could lavish love on since they were probably going to be ripped from them. They frequently had no husbands to call their own for similar reasons and ultimately end up being alone in turmoil. Horrific treatment and the carving up of families leave our main characters locked. The book shows us how Sethe's heart is unlocked, and how her new relationship gradually unfurls the hurt and she exposes her story. The ghosts of Sethe's past are given a chance to show us a little of their side of the story too. It is a painful journey. I found six or seven times, i was reading through tears. Stories of rape and injustice are told with delicacy, alluded to rather than very graphically rendered and in some ways this made it, for me, more. Something more more grindingly hurtful than outrage invoking.

This book feels utterly authentic. It is a study in human interactions and the effects of being alone or being together. Nothing puts the spotlight on Sethe's locked up life until others come into the story.

It has an unusual tenor and language (for a British reader at least), charmingly so.

I wondered why the book was set after, and not during the war. The war was very, very lightly brushed into the tale. The focus was very heavily human interest as opposed to political but i think the human story is as compelling a story as i have ever read.

I now find myself wondering what manner of woman was this author. I intend to find out.

I think this book is massive and i can't recommend it to book clubs highly enough. Its not an easy read - go to Agatha Christy or Barbara Cartland if thats what you want, but it is a not to be missed banquet for a serious (patient) reader.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, 12 Aug 2010
I loved this book!

I had to put it down at the description of the nasty, horrible Schoolteacher coming to take Sethe and her children back to the gravely misnamed 'Sweet Home'.

The complexity of the appearance of 'Beloved' is stunning. Is she a shared delusion of Sethe and Denver's? This would make sense to me, they had a very claustrophobic relationship; very inter - dependent until the arrival of Paul D who is the catalyst to the remainder of the events. Ultimately he does them a favour, makes them face their shame and guilt and allows them to move on with their lives.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars frightening, 2 April 2001
By 
V. Hayrabedian (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Beloved (Mass Market Paperback)
This is one of those books you read once, take a three month break and read again to catch what you missed the first time around. Sethe is a wonderfully rounded character, but what makes her special is her flawed logic. You see exactly what she is getting at - why she reacted the way she did - and you still can't condone it.
Very controversial.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read in a quiet room, 17 July 2009
By 
C. Elizabeth Read (S.W. France) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Beloved (Mass Market Paperback)
As the title suggests; read in a quiet room.

Many reviewers have mentioned the quality of writing of this outstanding novel but it is best to read it away from distractions and noise as you may get lost.

A book worthy of its place on my shelf and one which will be re-read several times in the future.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remembering, 19 July 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Beloved (Mass Market Paperback)
You can acknowledge slavery but never really understand its reality. This book made me think. It's full of ghosts - the ghosts of history, the ghosts of memory, and the ghost of Seth's daughter, Beloved. The narrative is disjointed, postmodern and beautiful - it's written with poetry and feeling, and has to be read to be understood. I cannot do it justice here. It deserves to be read.
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Beloved
Beloved by Toni Morrison (Paperback - 4 Mar 1999)
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