Book Review: Beloved by Toni Morrison

Image Description: book cover of Beloved by Toni Morrison
Title: Beloved
Author: Toni Morrison
Social Media: Goodreads
Publisher: Vintage Digital, Imprint of Random House
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Format and Price: E-Book at $14.99

About The Author:
Toni Morrison (born Chloe Anthony Wofford), is an American author, editor, and professor who won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature for being an author “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.”

Her novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue, and richly detailed African American characters; among the best known are her novels The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, and Beloved, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988. In 2001 she was named one of “The 30 Most Powerful Women in America” by Ladies’ Home Journal.

About The Book:
Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby.

Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Her new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.

Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement by Nobel Prize laureate Toni Morrison.

General Observations:

~It’s Personal: This book is surprisingly personal for me, which might sound weird as a white Australian woman, but there is logic behind it. As a child, my parents were the type of people who would urged me to watch anti-racist movies, read anti-racist books and books about World War Two, my favourite movie as a child was the movie adaptation of The Colour Purple (unfortunately I’ve yet to read the book). The movie adaptation of Beloved was one of those movies that I watched as a child and it has stuck with me my whole life, even though I didn’t always understand all the deeper sub-text and history behind it. It wasn’t until I began reading Beloved that I realised there was a sub-conscious connection between this book and one of my WIP novel ideas (one I had created when I was a teenager). The image of Sethe with a tree carved into her back formed the germ of an idea of a novel and a character who also had her own tree to bear. As a result, this book is very important to me, and I fear my review will not do it justice.

~A way with words: Toni Morrison takes on the enormous and difficult task of giving a potentially fictionalised account of what could have happened regarding the Margret Garner case. Toni Morrison manages to convey a balanced point of view of the situation. Sethe is humanised and her choices are made understandable. Sethe is characterised as a maternal woman who loves her family, so that even when the reader is made aware of the fact that Sethe murdered her own daughter, the reader is capable to seeing it for what it would otherwise be depicted, not a monstrous act of mindless violence and rage, but a desperate act born of limited choices. But Toni Morrison also depicts the judgement and morality of the situation by the character representation of the women from the town and Paul D, however, in the end the women from the town and Paul D are willing to put their personal feelings aside and offer Sethe the help she needs. I don’t think anyone but Toni Morrison could write this book, she’s just such a phenomenal writer who understands her characters so well. I would describe Toni Morrison’s writing style as poetical but at times obscure, it would often take me a few re-reads of a page and sometimes a whole chapter before I fully understood what the chapter was trying to convey. The chapters narrated by Beloved and Paul D were, for me, the hardest to understand, but given what they represented as symbols of slavery and racism, this was understandable.

In conclusion, I hold a special place for this book in my bookshelf, it’s an intensive read but it is worthy of the effort, Toni Morrison is an amazing writer and this is an amazing book, just please go read it.

References:

~Lister, R 2009, ‘Toni Morrison and the Novel’ in Reading Toni Morrison, Santa Barbara: Greenwood, pp. 13-22

~Morrison, J 2003, ‘Chapter Eight: Toni Morrison: blackness and the historical imagination,’ Contemporary Fiction, London: Routledge, pp. 115-32

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