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4.2 out of 5 stars
175
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 10 September 2014
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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on 19 December 2016
very good
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on 8 April 2017
Profound, poetic,beautiful,disturbing, produces tears of anger, love, sadness, compassion. Read if you want to be moved and made to think. A great story in a truly great novel.
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on 22 April 2017
My sister in law loves the novel
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on 2 February 2015
Pretty good, slightly 'over the top' though, too much drama. It would have made the sinister topic of slavery hit harder if it had been a bit more measured.
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on 19 December 2014
Amazing book beautifully written.
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on 18 December 2014
a classic
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on 28 December 2016
DOES IT JOB
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on 26 September 2016
vgood
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on 5 June 2017
Whilst is a story about family, resilience, emotional scarring, love – the slavery theme is so strong and so horrific that its somehow defines the book. It’s been a while since a I read a book that so gently and non-aggressively tells of the sheer inhumanity that was meted out to slaves for over 400 years
Sethe is an amazing woman, strong, self-sufficient and as a reader we can semi understand why she did what she did. There is also, thank god, hope and optimism for all of them at the end of the book.

I think we need to all read this book, as understanding this issue and the sheer savagery meted out helps understand the very long shadow cast by this atrocity, esp in the USA.

400 years.
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