Beloved [NOOK Book]

Overview

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, its protagonist, 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. And Sethe’s 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 ...
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Beloved

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Overview

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, its protagonist, 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. And Sethe’s 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.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Set in rural Ohio several years after the Civil War, this profoundly affecting chronicle of slavery and its aftermath is Toni Morrison's greatest novel, a dazzling achievement, and the most spellbinding reading experience of the decade. "A brutally powerful, mesmerizing story . . . read it and tremble."

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Measure of a Life: Toni Morrison

"I'm not trying to cast blame," explained author Toni Morrison in a recent interview about her racially revisionist literature. "I'm just trying to look at something without blinking." That is certainly an apt description of her approach to the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Beloved: In it she has focused her steady gaze on a dreadful episode in American history -- slavery and its aftermath -- and the result is a spellbinding masterpiece of both exquisite beauty and pain. Set shortly after the Civil War in rural Ohio, the story revolves around Sethe, a runaway slave literally haunted by the legacy of her past -- a past that she tries desperately to repress, but one that the supernatural forces in her house won't let her forget. Her home is "spiteful...full of baby's venom," and reverberates with the angry rumblings of her dead baby daughter. Eerie red light, rattling furniture, and overturned dishes are commonplace. Sethe's love for this child was so deep that it proved deadly: She murdered the girl rather than see her returned to a life of slavery. Terrorized by the ghost, Sethe's sons have run off; her treasured mother-in-law, Baby Suggs, has died; and she lives in virtual isolation with her adolescent daughter, Denver. When Paul D. -- an ex-slave from the Sweet Home plantation where Sethe was held in bondage -- shows up on her doorstep, Sethe's life changes abruptly. Not only must she endure a surge of memories, but the previously incorporeal ghost suddenly manifests itself in the form of a strange but seductive young woman named Beloved.

Beloved is but one of many critically acclaimed works by the prolific Morrison. Born Chloe Anthony Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, in 1931, Morrison read ravenously as a child and went on to earn an English degree from Howard and a master's from Cornell University. She has held teaching positions at countless colleges -- Yale University, Bard College, and Rutgers among them. Before devoting herself fully to her own fiction, she worked for 20 years as a senior editor at Random House. Since 1989, she has held a university chair in humanities at Princeton University, and has won numerous awards, most notably the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature. As the eighth woman and the first African American to have received the award, she is now one of the most respected figures in American letters.

A vocal force in the once-silenced community of African-American women, Morrison is devoted to the potency and potential of language. "We die," she has said. "That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives." If language is indeed the measure of our lives, then she has lived one of unparalleled eloquence. For her prose is unquestionably dazzling. Like an alchemist transforming dross to gold, Morrison turns words into living, breathing, shimmering entities, into pulsating colors, vibrant sounds, pungent smells. So vivid is Beloved's fictional world -- the white staircase in Sethe's house, Denver's boxwood hiding place -- that the reader becomes a part of it. And so acutely are the characters' emotions drawn -- Beloved's bottomless rage, Baby Suggs's bone-tired exhaustion -- that we identify with each of them. Whether writing in narrative form or indulging in occasional poetic riffs, Morrison taps into universal human dilemmas and reaches us at the deepest level.

This is not to say that her prose is easy. Her convoluted narrative style is often compared with that of fellow Nobel laureate William Faulkner. In Beloved, neither plot nor time is linear. The past overlaps the present; memory -- or "rememory," as she calls it -- bleeds into every scene. To maintain suspense, Morrison withholds information, but drops clues on every page -- tantalizing hints of Sethe's crime or Beloved's identity. The details accumulate until you find yourself suddenly gasping with comprehension, and then wildly rifling back through the pages to reread earlier scenes that only now make sense.

Readers intimidated by such complexity might be tempted to skip the book and head straight for the new movie adaptation, which producer Oprah Winfrey and director Jonathan Demme have handled with grace and dexterity. Their lushly photographed film stays faithful to the book's lyricism, dialogue, and memory-driven structure. The casting is ideal: Danny Glover makes an endearing Paul D., and Oprah Winfrey plays Sethe with just the right iron-eyed determination. Although Thandie Newton's portrayal of Beloved is at times over the top -- veering into Exorcist territory -- the uninhibited force she brings to the role is riveting.

And yet, no film adaptation -- not even one as artistic and insightful as Demme's -- can match the power of Morrison's novel. The movie shares the book's slowly unraveling mystery and its unflinching depictions of slavery, but it loses much, simply due to its medium. Three hours are not nearly enough to cover the array or depth of Morrison's characters. We only skim the surface of Denver, Baby Suggs, Paul D., and others. We never learn the intimate details of their pasts. Nor do we hear their internal dialogue -- so essential in a novel of ever-shifting perspectives. Plenty of vital characters don't appear at all. And the importance of the African-American community -- whose support, or lack thereof, plays such a huge role in all of Morrison's books -- is diminished in the film.

Though Beloved is Morrison's undisputed masterpiece, all her books are remarkable. Each bears her trademark touches: elegant prose, fantastical occurrences, striking characters, and racial tension. Her first and perhaps most accessible novel is the short and searing The Bluest Eye, in which a girl is driven mad by her hunger for an unattainable symbol of white beauty -- blue eyes. Her second novel, Sula, is an oft-overlooked gem, a portrait of female friendship between a conformist and a rebel. Song of Solomon, winner of the 1977 National Book Critics Award, distinguishes itself from her other works for its straightforward plot flow and its male protagonist, who must embrace his heritage in order to mature. Although Tar Baby, with its Caribbean setting and its privileged characters -- a pampered black model and a rich white couple among them -- is sometimes considered Morrison's most commercial book, it is as provocative and sumptuously rendered as the rest. Her most challenging books are her most recent ones: a trilogy of novels (each with a different cast of characters) intended as a retelling of the black experience in America from slavery to the present day. Jazz, the second in the trilogy after Beloved, evokes a jealous love triangle in early black Harlem, in a literary style as dizzy and ingenious as a Coltrane improvisation. And in Paradise, the third and most controversial of the series, a posse of men from an all-black town descends upon a convent of wayward women to murder the inhabitants. Published earlier this year, Paradise is a complex work that has received plenty of praise, but also substantial criticism. In addition to her seven novels, Morrison has written a play, "Dreaming Emmett," and a book of essays entitled Playing in the Dark.

"My job," she says, "is to make sure whatever journey I invite a reader to, I am there to accompany them, to offer a palm to hold." And it is our job, as readers, to take that hand and to dive fearlessly into the fictional worlds she has created. To decline Morrison's invitation would be to deprive ourselves of some of the most sublime, transformative literature of our time.

—Lilan Patri

People Magazine
A brutally powerful, mesmerizing story . . . read it and tremble.
Sacred Life
When Toni Morrison was an editor at Random House, she edited The Black Book, an anthology&#47scrapbook of African American history. While working on the book, she ran across a newspaper article about a woman named Margaret Garner, a runaway slave who killed her children, slitting the throat of one and bashing in the skull of the other, to prevent them from being recaptured by the slave hunters hot on their trail. This upside down story of motherly love expressed through child murder haunted Morrison for many years and finally manifest itself in fictional form in her Pulitzer Prize-winning fifth novel, Beloved. A poetic chronicle of slavery and its aftermath, it describes how that inhuman ordeal forced cruel choices and emotional pain on its victims and gave them memories that would possess them long after they were released from their physical bondage. Morrison uses the story to address a key question for black people then and now: How can we let go of the pain of the past and redeem the sacrifices made in the struggle for freedom?

The novel's main character, Sethe, escapes from a plantation where she was viciously abused and perversely cherished by her master for her "skills" as a childbearer. When the slave hunters come looking for her, she kills her infant child to prevent her from becoming a slave. After slavery, Sethe finds work and devotes herself to her surviving daughter, Denver, but is haunted by memories of cruel life on the plantation she escaped and by the vindictive spirit of her murdered infant, Beloved. Paul D., an almost supernaturally charming former slave from the same plantation as Sethe, arrives and temporarily banishes the ghost of the infant Beloved. But Beloved returns in an older and more dangerous form and sets out to destroy Sethe's household by seducing Paul D., driving Denver away from her mother, and feeding on Sethe's body and spirit.

Beloved is both beautiful and elusive: beautiful for its powerful and captivating language, and elusive not just because of its reliance on visions of haints and apparitions, but in its narrative interweaving of the past and present, the physical and the spiritual. For all of its supernatural elements, however, Beloved is most notable as a powerful tribute to the real-life struggles of a generation of black men and women to reconcile the horrors of the past and move on. The spirit of Beloved and the recurring memories of the tribulations Sethe endured on the plantations she lived on and escaped from were both testaments to the tangibly powerful hold that slavery had on her. In the end, she is able to recover her life only by finding within herself and her community the spiritual tools strong enough to exorcise her of this haunting. In this, Sethe's struggle is the struggle of all African Americans: the struggle to redeem ourselves, our families, and our communities from the wreckage of the past even as we honor the sacrifices made for survival.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Mixed with the lyric beauty of the writing, the fury in Morrison's . . . book is almost palpable...a haunting chronicle of slavery and its aftermath'' set in rural Ohio in the wake of the Civil War. The "brilliantly conceived story . . . should not be missed.''
Library Journal
Powerful is too tame a word to describe Toni Morrison's searing new novel of post-Civil War Ohio. Morrison, whose myth-laden storytelling shone in Song of Solomon and other novels, has created an unforgettable world in this novel about ex-slaves haunted by violent memories. Before the war, Sethe, pregnant, sent her children away to their grandmother in Ohio, whose freedom had been paid for by their father. Sethe runs too, but when her "owners'' come to recapture her, she attempts to murder the children, succeeding with one, named Beloved. This murder will (literally) haunt Sethe for the rest of her life and affect everyone around her. A fascinating, grim, relentless story, this important book by a major writer belongs in most libraries. -- Ann H. Fisher, Radford Public Library, Va.
Library Journal
Powerful is too tame a word to describe Toni Morrison's searing new novel of post-Civil War Ohio. Morrison, whose myth-laden storytelling shone in Song of Solomon and other novels, has created an unforgettable world in this novel about ex-slaves haunted by violent memories. Before the war, Sethe, pregnant, sent her children away to their grandmother in Ohio, whose freedom had been paid for by their father. Sethe runs too, but when her "owners'' come to recapture her, she attempts to murder the children, succeeding with one, named Beloved. This murder will (literally) haunt Sethe for the rest of her life and affect everyone around her. A fascinating, grim, relentless story, this important book by a major writer belongs in most libraries. -- Ann H. Fisher, Radford Public Library, Va.
Booknews
Hardcover reprint of the acclaimed, and now virtually canonized 1987 novel. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
People Magazine
A brutally powerful, mesmerizing story . . . read it and tremble.
Margo Jefferson
The ordinary spars with the extraordinary in Morrison's books. What would be a classically tragic sensibility, with its implacable move toward crises and the extremes of pity and horror, is altered and illuminated by a thousand smaller, natural occurrences and circumstances. -- Ms. Magazine
New York Review of Books
A work that brings to the darkest corners of American experience the wisdom, and the courage, to know them as they are.
John Leonard
A masterwork…wonderful…I can't imagine American literature without it!
—John Leonard, Los Angeles Times
From the Publisher
“A masterwork. . . . Wonderful. . . . I can’t imagine American literature without it.” —John Leonard, Los Angeles Times

“A triumph.” —Margaret Atwood, The New York Times Book Review

“Toni Morrison’s finest work. . . . [It] sets her apart [and] displays her prodigious talent.” —Chicago Sun-Times

“Dazzling. . . . Magical. . . . An extraordinary work.” —The New York Times

“A masterpiece. . . . Magnificent. . . . Astounding. . . . Overpowering.” —Newsweek

“Brilliant. . . . Resonates from past to present.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“A brutally powerful, mesmerizing story. . . . Read it and tremble.” —People

“Toni Morrison is not just an important contemporary novelist but a major figure in our national literature.” —New York Review of Books

“A work of genuine force. . . . Beautifully written.” —The Washington Post

“There is something great in Beloved: a play of human voices, consciously exalted, perversely stressed, yet holding true. It gets you.” —The New Yorker

“A magnificent heroine . . . a glorious book.” —The Baltimore Sun

“Superb. . . . A profound and shattering story that carries the weight of history. . . . Exquisitely told.” —Cosmopolitan

“Magical . . . rich, provocative, extremely satisfying.” —Milwaukee Journal

“Beautifully written. . . . Powerful. . . . Toni Morrison has become one of America’s finest novelists.” —The Plain Dealer

“Stunning. . . A lasting achievement.” —The Christian Science Monitor

“Written with a force rarely seen in contemporary fiction. . . . One feels deep admiration.” —USA Today

“Compelling . . . . Morrison shakes that brilliant kaleidoscope of hers again, and the story of pain, endurance, poetry and power she is born to tell comes right out.” —The Village Voice

“A book worth many rereadings.” —Glamour

“In her most probing novel, Toni Morrison has demonstrated once again the stunning powers that place her in the first ranks of our living novelists.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Heart-wrenching . . . mesmerizing.” —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Shattering emotional power and impact.” —New York Daily News

“A rich, mythical novel . . . a triumph.” —St. Petersburg Times

“Powerful . . . voluptuous.” —New York

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307388629
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/24/2007
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 17,012
  • File size: 302 KB

Meet the Author

Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison is the Robert F. Goheen Professor of Humanities at Princeton University. She has received the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. In 1993 she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She lives in Rockland County, New York, and Princeton, New Jersey.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Biography

Toni Morrison has been called "black America's best novelist," and her incredible string of imaginative contemporary classics would suggest that she is actually one of America's best novelists regardless of race. Be that as it may, it is indeed difficult to disconnect Morrison's work from racial issues, as they lie at the heart of her most enduring novels.

Growing up in Lorain, Ohio, a milieu Jet magazine described as "mixed and sometimes hostile," Morrison experienced racism firsthand. (When she was still a toddler, her home was set on fire with her family inside.) Yet, her father instilled in her a great sense of dignity, a cultural pride that would permeate her writing. She distinguished herself in school, graduating from Howard and Cornell Universities with bachelor's and master's degrees in English; in addition to her career as a writer, she has taught at several colleges and universities, lectured widely, and worked in publishing.

Morrison made her literary debut in 1970 with The Bluest Eye, the story of a lonely 11-year-old black girl who prays that God will turn her eyes blue, in the naïve belief that this transformation will change her miserable life. As the tale unfolds, her life does change, but in ways almost too tragic and devastating to contemplate. On its publication, the book received mixed reviews; but John Leonard of The New York Times recognized the brilliance of Morrison's writing, describing her prose as "...so precise, so faithful to speech and so charged with pain and wonder that the novel becomes poetry."

Over time, Morrison's talent became self-evident, and her reputation grew with each successive book. Her second novel, Sula, was nominated for a National Book Award; her third, 1977's Song of Solomon, established her as a true literary force. Shot through with the mythology and African-American folklore that informed Morrison's childhood in Ohio, this contemporary folktale is notable for its blending of supernatural and realistic elements. It was reviewed rapturously and went on win a National Book Critics Circle Award.

The culmination of Morrison's storytelling skills, and the book most often considered her masterpiece, is Beloved. Published in 1987 and inspired by an incident from history, this post-Civil War ghost story tells the story of Sethe, a former runaway slave who murdered her baby daughter rather than condemn her to a life of slavery. Now, 18 years later, Sethe and her family are haunted by the spirit of the dead child. Heartbreaking and harrowing, Beloved grapples with mythic themes of love and loss, family and freedom, grief and guilt, while excavating the tragic, shameful legacy of slavery. The novel so moved Morrison's literary peers that 48 of them signed an open letter published in The New York Times, demanding that she be recognized for this towering achievement. The book went on to win the Pulitzer Prize; and in 2006, it was selected by The New York Times as the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years.

In addition to her extraordinary novels, Morrison has also written a play, short stories, a children's book, and copious nonfiction, including essays, reviews, and literary and social criticism. While she has made her name by addressing important African-American themes, her narrative power and epic sweep have won her a wide and diverse audience. She cannot be dismissed as a "black writer" any more than we can shoehorn Faulkner's fiction into "southern literature." Fittingly, she received the Nobel Prize in 1993; perhaps the true power of her impressive body of work is best summed up in the Swedish Academy's citation, which reads: "To Toni Morrison, who, in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality."

Good To Know

Chloe Anthony Wofford chose to publish her first novel under the name Toni Morrison because she believed that Toni was easier to pronounce than Chloe. Morrison later regretted assuming the nom de plume.

In 1986, the first production of Morrison's sole play Dreaming Emmett was staged. The play was based on the story of Emmett Till, a black teen murdered by racists in 1955.

Morrison's prestigious status is not limited to her revered novels or her multitude of awards. She also holds a chair at Princeton University.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Chloe Anthony Wofford (real name)
      Toni Morrison
    2. Hometown:
      Princeton, New Jersey, and Manhattan
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 18, 1931
    2. Place of Birth:
      Lorain, Ohio
    1. Education:
      Howard University, B.A. in English, 1953; Cornell, M.A., 1955

Read an Excerpt

I


124 WAS SPITEFUL. Full of a baby's venom. The women in the house knew it and so did the children. For years each put up with the spite in his own way, but by 1873 Sethe and her daughter Denver were its only victims. The grandmother, Baby Suggs, was dead, and the sons, Howard and Buglar, had run away by the time they were thirteen years old--as soon as merely looking in a mirror shattered it (that was the signal for Buglar); as soon as two tiny band prints appeared in the cake (that was it for Howard). Neither boy waited to see more; another kettleful of chickpeas smoking in a heap on the floor; soda crackers crumbled and strewn in a line next to the doorsill. Nor did they wait for one of the relief periods: the weeks, months even, when nothing was disturbed. No. Each one fled at once--the moment the house committed what was for him the one insult not to be borne or witnessed a second time. Within two months, in the dead of winter, leaving their grandmother, Baby Suggs; Sethe, their mother; and their little sister, Denver, all by themselves in the gray and white house on Bluestone Road. It didn't have a number then, because Cincinnati didn't stretch that far. In fact, Ohio had been calling itself a state only seventy years when first one brother and then the next stuffed quilt packing into his hat, snatched up his shoes, and crept away from the lively spite the house felt for them.

Baby Suggs didn't even raise her head. From her sickbed she heard them go but that wasn't the reason she lay still. It was a wonder to her that her grandsons had taken so long to realize that every house wasn't like the one on Bluestone Road. Suspended between the nastiness of life and the meanness of the dead, she couldn't get interested in leaving life or living it, let alone the fright of two creeping-off boys. Her past had been like her present--intolerable--and since she knew death was anything but forgetfulness, she used the little energy left her for pondering color.

"Bring a little lavender in, if you got any. Pink, if you don't."

And Sethe would oblige her with anything from fabric to her own tongue. Winter in Ohio was especially rough if you had an appetite for color. Sky provided the only drama, and counting on a Cincinnati horizon for life's principal joy was reckless indeed. So Sethe and the girl Denver did what they could, and what the house permitted, for her. Together they waged a perfunctory battle against the outrageous behavior of that place; against turned-over slop jars, smacks on the behind, and gusts of sour air. For they understood the source of the outrage as well as they knew the source of light.

Baby Suggs died shortly after the brothers left, with no interest whatsoever in their leave-taking or hers, and right afterward Sethe and Denver decided to end the persecution by calling forth the ghost that tried them so. Perhaps a conversation, they thought, an exchange of views or something would help. So they held hands and said, "Come on. Come on. You may as well just come on."

The sideboard took a step forward but nothing else did.

"Grandma Baby must be stopping it," said Denver. She was ten and still mad at Baby Suggs for dying.

Sethe opened her eyes. "I doubt that," she said.

"Then why don't it come?"

"You forgetting how little it is," said her mother. "She wasn't even two years old when she died. Too little to understand. Too little to talk much even."

"Maybe she don't want to understand," said Denver.

"Maybe. But if she'd only come, I could make it clear to her." Sethe released her daughter's hand and together they pushed the sideboard back against the wall. Outside a driver whipped his horse into the gallop local people felt necessary when they passed 124.

"For a baby she throws a powerful spell," said Denver.

"No more powerful than the way I loved her," Sethe answered and there it was again. The welcoming cool of unchiseled headstones; the one she selected to lean against on tiptoe, her knees wide open as any grave. Pink as a fingernail it was, and sprinkled with glittering chips. Ten minutes, he said. You got ten minutes I'll do it for free.

Ten minutes for seven letters. With another ten could she have gotten "Dearly" too? She had not thought to ask him and it bothered her still that it might have been possible--that for twenty minutes, a half hour, say, she could have had the whole thing, every word she heard the preacher say at the funeral (and all there was to say, surely) engraved on her baby's headstone: Dearly Beloved. But what she got, settled for, was the one word that mattered. She thought it would be enough, rutting among the headstones with the engraver, his young son looking on, the anger in his face so old; the appetite in it quite new. That should certainly be enough. Enough to answer one more preacher, one more abolitionist and a town full of disgust.

Counting on the stillness of her own soul, she had forgotten the other one: the soul of her baby girl. Who would have thought that a little old baby could harbor so much rage? Rutting among the stones under the eyes of the engraver's son was not enough. Not only did she have to live out her years in a house palsied by the baby's fury at having its throat cut, but those ten minutes she spent pressed up against dawn-colored stone studded with star chips, her knees wide open as the grave, were longer than life, more alive, more pulsating than the baby blood that soaked her fingers like oil.

"We could move," she suggested once to her mother-in-law.

"What'd be the point?" asked Baby Suggs. "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. My husband's spirit was to come back in here? or yours? Don't talk to me. You lucky. You got three left. Three pulling at your skirts and just one raising hell from the other side. Be thankful, why don't you? I had eight. Every one of them gone away from me. Four taken, four chased, and all, I expect, worrying somebody's house into evil." Baby Suggs rubbed her eyebrows. "My firstborn. All I can remember of her is how she loved the burned bottom of bread. Can you beat that? Eight children and that's all I remember."

"That's all you let yourself remember," Sethe had told her, but she was down to one herself--one alive, that is--the boys chased off by the dead one, and her memory of Buglar was fading fast. Howard at least had a head shape nobody could forget. As for the rest, she worked hard to remember as close to nothing as was safe. Unfortunately her brain was devious. She might be hurrying across a field, running practically, to get to the pump quickly and rinse the chamomile sap from her legs. Nothing else would be in her mind. The picture of the men coming to nurse her was as lifeless as the nerves in her back where the skin buckled like a washboard. Nor was there the faintest scent of ink or the cherry gum and oak bark from which it was made. Nothing. Just the breeze cooling her face as she rushed toward water. And then sopping the chamomile away with pump water and rags, her mind fixed on getting every last bit of sap off--on her carelessness in taking a shortcut across the field just to save a half mile, and not noticing how high the weeds had grown until the itching was all the way to her knees. Then something. The plash of water, the sight of her shoes and stockings awry on the path where she had flung them; or Here Boy lapping in the puddle near her feet, and suddenly there was Sweet Home rolling, rolling, rolling out before her eyes, and although there was not a leaf on that farm that did not make her want to scream, it rolled itself out before her in shameless beauty. It never looked as terrible as it was and it made her wonder if hell was a pretty place too. Fire and brimstone all right, but hidden in lacy groves. Boys hanging from the most beautiful sycamores in the world. It shamed her--remembering the wonderful soughing trees rather than the boys. Try as she might to make it otherwise, the sycamores beat out the children every time and she could not forgive her memory for that.

When the last of the chamomile was gone, she went around to the front of the house, collecting her shoes and stockings on the way. As if to punish her further for her terrible memory, sitting on the porch not forty feet away was Paul D, the last of the Sweet Home men. And although she could never mistake his face for another's, she said, "Is that you?"

"What's left." He stood up and smiled. "How you been, girl, besides barefoot?"

When she laughed it came out loose and young. "Messed up my legs back yonder. Chamomile."

He made a face as though tasting a teaspoon of something bitter. "I don't want to even hear 'bout it. Always did hate that stuff."

Sethe balled up her stockings and jammed them into her pocket. "Come on in."

"Porch is fine, Sethe. Cool out here." He sat back down and looked at the meadow on the other side of the road, knowing the eagerness he felt would be in his eyes.

"Eighteen years," she said softly.

"Eighteen," he repeated. "And I swear I been walking every one of em. Mind if I join you?" He nodded toward her feet and began unlacing his shoes.

"You want to soak them? Let me get you a basin of water." She moved closer to him to enter the house.

"No, uh uh. Can't baby feet. A whole lot more tramping they got to do yet."

"You can't leave right away, Paul D. You got to stay awhile."

"Well, long enough to see Baby Suggs, anyway. Where is she?"

''Dead.''

"Aw no. When?"

"Eight years now. Almost nine."

"Was it hard? I hope she didn't die hard."

Sethe shook her head. "Soft as cream. Being alive was the hard part. Sorry you missed her though. Is that what you came by for?"

"That's some of what I came for. The rest is you. But if all the truth be known, I go anywhere these days. Anywhere they let me sit down."

"You looking good."

"Devil's confusion. He lets me look good long as I feel bad." He looked at her and the word "bad" took on another meaning.

Sethe smiled. This is the way they were--had been. All of the Sweet Home men, before and after Halle, treated her to a mild brotherly flirtation, so subtle you had to scratch for it.

Except for a heap more hair and some waiting in his eyes, he looked the way he had in Kentucky. Peachstone skin; straight-backed. For a man with an immobile face it was amazing how ready it was to smile, or blaze or be sorry with you. As though all you had to do was get his attention and right away he produced the feeling you were feeling. With less than a blink, his face seemed to change--underneath it lay the activity.

"I wouldn't have to ask about him, would I? You'd tell me if there was anything to tell, wouldn't you?" Sethe looked down at her feet and saw again the sycamores.

"I'd tell you. Sure I'd tell you. I don't know any more now than I did then." Except for the churn, he thought, and you don't need to know that. "You must think he's still alive."

"No. I think he's dead. It's not being sure that keeps him alive."

"What did Baby Suggs think?"

"Same, but to listen to her, all her children is dead. Claimed she felt each one go the very day and hour."

"When she say Halle went?"

"Eighteen fifty-five. The day my baby was born."

"You had that baby, did you? Never thought you'd make it." He chuckled. "Running off pregnant."

"Had to. Couldn't be no waiting." She lowered her head and thought, as he did, how unlikely it was that she had made it. And if it hadn't been for that girl looking for velvet, she never would have.

"All by yourself too." He was proud of her and annoyed by her. Proud she had done it; annoyed that she had not needed Halle or him in the doing.

"Almost by myself. Not all by myself. A whitegirl helped me."

"Then she helped herself too, God bless her."

"You could stay the night, Paul D."

"You don't sound too steady in the offer."

Sethe glanced beyond his shoulder toward the closed door. "Oh it's truly meant. I just hope you'll pardon my house. Come on in. Talk to Denver while I cook you something."

Paul D tied his shoes together, hung them over his shoulder and followed her through the door straight into a pool of red and undulating light that locked him where he stood.

"You got company?" he whispered, frowning.

"Off and on," said Sethe.

"Good God." He backed out the door onto the porch. "What kind of evil you got in here?"

"It's not evil, just sad. Come on. Just step through."

He looked at her then, closely. Closer than he had when she first rounded the house on wet and shining legs, holding her shoes and stockings up in one hand, her skirts in the other. Halle's girl--the one with iron eyes and backbone to match. He had never seen her hair in Kentucky. And though her face was eighteen years older than when last he saw her, it was softer now. Because of the hair. A face too still for comfort; irises the same color as her skin, which, in that still face, used to make him think of a mask with mercifully punched-out eyes. Halle's woman. Pregnant every year including the year she sat by the fire telling him she was going to run. Her three children she had already packed into a wagonload of others in a caravan of Negroes crossing the river. They were to be left with Halle's mother near Cincinnati. Even in that tiny shack, leaning so close to the fire you could smell the heat in her dress, her eyes did not pick up a flicker of light. They were like two wells into which he had trouble gazing. Even punched out they needed to be covered, lidded, marked with some sign to warn folks of what that emptiness held. So he looked instead at the fire while she told him, because her husband was not there for the telling. Mr. Garner was dead and his wife had a lump in her neck the size of a sweet potato and unable to speak to anyone. She leaned as close to the fire as her pregnant belly allowed and told him, Paul D, the last of the Sweet Home men.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 304 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2007

    Toni Morrison's Haunting Novel

    A child is a gift which cannot be compared to any in the world, but when a child is murdered for the mother's survival, its spirit lingers on in the thoughts and nightmares of the family. Beloved by Toni Morrison is a haunting novel of a mother and daughter, their struggles to survive the shadows of their past, and the secrets that hold them back in irrefutable ways. The deeply troubled main characters and bone chilling plot takes place in a haunting setting which keeps the pages turning and the reader wanting more, even after the novel has ended. MOrrison wrote this novel with spellbounding emotion that can hadrdly be compared to any work of fiction I have ever read. Morrison's brilliant masterpiece transposes the mind of the reader into the time of the Civil War, where escaped slaves are continuously disturbed by their precedent.

    11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2008

    Like nothing I've ever read before!

    There's a good reason this book won the Pulitzer Prize and is voted the #1 Work of Fiction in the last 25 Years! Amazing book and a must read!<BR/><BR/>I didn't find it confusing - but it was deep and required you to sit with it sometimes to absorb it - which also seemed to me, intentional by the writer. I loved that about it.<BR/> <BR/>I saw some say it had nothing to do with slavery and I can only tell you that it has everything to do with slavery. It has to do with it's mental and physical abuse and the effects of it. All of this book is about is slavery. <BR/><BR/>One more thing I HAVE to say... One reviewer said she, Sethe, did what she did to Beloved for her own survival. ...but that's not why she did it... she did it out of love for the child.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Good.

    I was very apprehensive about reading Beloved. I heard nothing but bad things about it from the people I know. So I went into it with a bad attitude. After reading the first couple chapters I understood Toni's writing style and was able to really get into it. I was never bored and I was able to put myself in the story. During one chapter I was literally breathless when it ended! It was that real. Parts of this novel are creepy, and I think that is what makes it so unique. You will feel many emotions while reading. It's a feeling that doesn't happen very much. I do have to say, I think people who know a lot about slavery will get more out of this, as it is a book about slavery. A couple things that were mentioned confused me and I had to look them up. I think this is a great book that you should not hesitate to pick up. It is extremely unique and will keep you reading!

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2008

    boring

    def. boring...thats all I can say. Now of course people are going to disagree, but this is my own opinion and some have to learn to respect that. So get over it.

    6 out of 35 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2006

    Sorrow

    November 13, 2006 Arwa Abdulrahim English 132 J. L. Roderique Toni Morrison takes us back to the time after the Civil War and slavery in Beloved. She uses powerful themes and writing techniques to make that time come alive. On of her major themes is memory. Through the protagonist, Sethe, Morrison gives the reader a realistic insight on the power of memory has over a person. Beloved is based on the life of a slave woman named Margaret Garner. Margaret Garner was a slave in Kentucky but moved to Ohio after she was freed, just like Sethe. Before the story even starts, the reader is captivated by its epigraphy, ¿Sixty Million and more¿ they are four power words that gave me goose bumps when I understand the meaning behind them. Toni Morrison dedicated Beloved to the nameless, sixty million and more victims of slavery and the Middle Passage. How can four words hold so much significance? Toni Morrison truly surpassed any readers expectations. Beloved starts out by introducing the main characters and 124, the home in which Sethe lives. 124 is the center of the story. It is where everything unfolds. Throughout the story, 124 seem to have a varying atmosphere in Part One Toni Morrison describes it as Spiteful, loud in Part Two, and quiet in Part Three. The house is also described as full of venom, fury, rage, grief, and so on. I believe that the moods of 124 represent the ever changing feelings that the characters feel as they delve more into their past and confront their painful memories. Toni Morrison describes the house in a very vivid way, making it seem as if it really exists, one would think that she lived the disturbing and depressing events described in Beloved. 124 is haunted by Sethes dead daughter, whom we learn she calls Beloved. (We now know why Toni Morrison chose the title she did for this book.) The reader gets a sense of what they are in for in the first couple of pages of Beloved. In the beginning of part one, the malevolent spirit of Beloved rages in anger, which is definitely that of a baby¿s. The reader must wonder why Toni Morrison would start the story off with such a vicious event. In my opinion, she started it off in such a way to show the torment the inhabitants of 124 had to endure for eighteen years. She also mentions that Howard and Bulgar, Sethe¿s two sons, ran away from 124 shortly before Baby Suggs¿s, their grandmother, death. One day, Paul D., a friend of Sethe¿s from Sweet Home plantation, stops by to Sethe¿s house. He is disappointed to find out that Baby Suggs, whom he came to visit, is gone. Paul D¿s presence allows Sethe to finally open up about her past. We later find out that his presence had something to do with Beloveds departure. His presence also causes a change in the writing techniques that Toni Morrison uses. At that point, the reader will discover a shifting point between Sethe¿s present life and her past life. The story becomes ever so perplexing. It is hard for the reader to follow the order of events in chronological order. Beloved is, perhaps, the most confusing novel I have ever read so far. The story also takes a major turning point at Paul D¿s presence. The reader beings to see that the ghost of Beloved has mysteriously disappeared. One can help but wonder why. Paul D¿s presence must have replaced Beloveds. To Sethe, it might symbolize hope, something that she is not accustomed to. To Denver , Sethe¿s only child, however, it was devastating, though Beloved was only a ghost, she was the only thing that Denver could connect with out side of 124. After the Beloved¿s spirit was gone Denver was very upset with Paul D, but she started to get use to him being around. People used to be afraid of Denver and her mother and disrespect them. When Paul D was around he took them out and Denver liked that very much, she said that people did not look at them in the weird way that they use to. Now when they look at them they smile and even somet

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    In my opinion, Beloved, written by Toni Morrison is one of the best books I've read and would like to read and discuss in a book club. Toni Morrison is an amazing writer. If I could write like her, I would be sitting on a star and riding the heavens.

    It has been a while since I read this particular novel, but it still haunts me when I think about the story. The plot is well thought out, and the events intrique this reader.

    Beloved is the daughter's name. You must read the book to find out why this name has been chosen. The book is too good to give any secrets away.

    One thing I will say. You will not be able to put the book done once you find out why the name Beloved was chosen. The story reaps empathy of the reader, and I would add that at some stages of the tale, one might begin to hate Beloved. Feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, and yearning for the protagonist all play a part in handling this emotional writing. Go and buy the book, and write a review. And don't wait for two years to go by before you decide to do so. Thank you for reading.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2006

    I would not recommend reading this book

    The novel Beloved is not for ordinary readers who love to read book after book. The novel was boring and had no point to it. One can argue that this book is creative and different however, it is different in a bad way. Beloved does not deserve the Pulitzer Price because it is not what critics made it seem. The book supposedly talks about slavery and life for African Americans as escaped slaves or as owned slaves. Memory/rememory is also a big topic talked about in the novel. It is a complex and confusing book and is a waste of time to read. This novel is about a family haunted by ghosts. The ghosts were family members and a dog. The family split up in the beginning of the novel. The grandmother, Baby Suggs, dies. The two sons, Howard and Buglar, ran away. The only people left in the house were Denver, the daughter, and her mother Sethe. Even though the family knew the house was haunted, they still stayed because the house was the only place that they can actually call home. In the novel, the house was referrer to as 124. Later in the novel Paul D, who was part of the ¿sweet home¿ group, became part of the family. Sweet home was the house the group lived in while they were slaves. The story then continues to talk about experiences that had to do with life as slaves. Memory/rememory also played a big role in the novel. This was illustrated many times within the novel where the characters would go back to their memories and remember events that occurred in their past and in other times the characters would remember that they had that memory and would go back and remember that event or the event in which they remembered that memory. Memory/rememory is one of the topics that lost and confused the readers. The book would talk about an event that is occurring in the novel and then in the next paragraph it would jump to a flashback without giving a transition word or phrase. For instance, Paul D was talking to Sethe about living with them and then before the point got across to the reader, he had a flashback about the time he was in Georgia in prison. He remembered how his neck connected to the axel and how his ankles fastened with iron and his hands clamped. This is only one way of how the book is confusing. Another way of how the book confuses readers is by the way the characters come into the story. The book brings a character into the story and the story keeps going. Then later in the story, the reader has a brief idea of who the character is and how the character relates to the story or a specific part of the story. For example, when Paul D first comes into the story, who he was and his relationship to Sethe was not talked about. Later on Sethe talks about who he is and how they knew each etc. This book is complex because it uses difficult language that makes the reader guess on what the author tries to say. For example, the first sentence in the book was ¿124 was spiteful.¿ Readers do not begin to understand what ¿124¿ is until a few pages later and even then, the reader has to assume that 124 is the house that the characters are living in because the book is not clear about it. The book also uses sophisticated language and metaphors that are difficult to understand. It is not concrete. Many events that occur in the novel do not exist. For example in an early part of the story the house was attacked by ghosts and objects inside the house were thrown around and at people and while that was going on, Paul D was fighting with one of the ghosts. The complexity of the book goes further than jumping from one point to another or from one event to another. At times, it even goes back and forth talking about two different subjects. Readers that are not used to this style of writing will get lost and that can result in one of few outcomes. The most common outcome would be to stop reading the book and watch the movie adaptation of the book. Tha

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2005

    Read it only if you're forced.

    I want to start off saying that I love classical novels, so don't think me simple minded, Beloved started out strong, with one voice and a good strong potential for a story, but then it entered into the land of confusion. It got impossible to keep up with all the different voices narrating the novel, all the constant jumps in timelines as well, aided it in that. If the author had just kept to one or two voices instead of jumping constantly without any warning at all, it would have been better. Towards the end it got tedious to read as well. Her writing in the beginning, I felt, was strong and to the point, towards the middle and end it wound up that you needed some form of decoder to figure out what she was talking about. I hope her other novels aren't like this.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Provoking

    Overall I had a hard time with this book. It was a very slow read for me, often talking itself in circles and leaving me confused. Still, I found the story very interesting and thought provoking. I felt awful for Sethe and her family and for the trials they had to endure. Even though, as I mentioned above, I felt that the 'slavery' theme often got overshadowed, I was still struck by the awful fact that slavery did exist (still exists some places in the world) and just how awful it was. Even the "good" slave owners (of "Sweet Home" where Sethe ran from) were despicable and made me shrink in shame.

    It was a good book, but hard to read. I don't know how good the movie was, but if it's true enough to the book, I might recommend watching that rather than trying to push through the book.

    Still, it's worth reading if only to get a new insight into the world of slavery and racism that raged (and still lingers) in America and the world.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2002

    Beloved...how about bewildered

    As a reader you feel horribly confused throughout this entire novel. Beloved is a realistic fiction novel about a woman¿s struggles after being freed from slavery. Toni Morrison, the author, makes it almost impossible to understand what¿s going on. What made this novel confusing was: never knowing who is talking, having flashbacks at odd moments, and having a very local color language. The main character Sethe becomes haunted by the spirit of her deceased daughter and her troubled past. Beloved is a novel about a mothers heartache and if she raised her daughter right before she died. And if not was it too late to fix the past. When I read this book I got lost so many times. Sometimes you have to read things over and over again. Toni Morrison needed to break down her paragraphs into less complex sentences. Most of the paragraphs had too many ideas running through them. With all of these ideas there could be many different interpretations of this book. Don¿t read this book ever unless you have to. I would recommend reading The Grapes of Wrath any day over this.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2002

    BeHated

    Toni Morrison ought to be ashamed of herself for writing such weirdness. This is one of the most horrible books ever written. As a matter of fact, all of Morrison's writing is horrendous. I don't understand, for the life of me why Oprah encourages such horrific writing. Toni Morrison is highly and extremely overrated.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2002

    Not worth your time

    I must say that I just felt cheated by this one. The plot if there was one made absolutely no sense. It was extremely confusing and not worth my time to try and figure out. I am however, happy to know that I am not the only person that experienced this confusion. I thought that I would watch the movie to make sense of it but that was just as bad. Oprah should be ashamed of herself for promoting this nonsense. Sorry, but you should have went back to the drawing board on this one.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 20, 2012

    I thought this was one of the best books I ever read. I have se

    I thought this was one of the best books I ever read. I have seen the movie a few times and loved it, thinking this was one of Oprah Winfrey's best works. But when I read the book I could just see the characters in the movie and they were perfectly selected. I think Thandi Newton should have won an award for her portrayal of Beloved. Toni Morrison's writing is beautiful and so revealing of her characters, as well as being one of the best descriptions of slavery before and after the Civil War when it was supposed to be ended. I will keep this book for future readings as it was so exciting I couldn't put it down and hated to see it end. I am looking forward to reading more of her books which I hope are equally good, as they couldn't be better.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 29, 2010

    confusing

    this book was good but not as great as many people say it is. it is too abstract and many of the things that are written shouldnt have been written in the first place

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2009

    The most moving, soulful story of the slavery experience I have ever read.

    The characters and their experiences were almost too real to bear. I don't think anyone could ever feel the horror, the pain or the fear the characters must have felt without actually having lived it or had a family member tell it. And yet there was hope and love. I'm so glad to have read it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2008

    Wonderful read, metaphorical? and expert.

    I am enjoying the novel. I can follow it pretty good, the plot is somewhat clear and the characters are full bodied. The Black experience towards the end of the Civil War and after is shocking and stunning 'bad', the writing is the writing.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2008

    AWESOME!!!

    Beloved was undescribeable. Morrison's use of words to describe events and charectres in the book is gorgeous. I've read it numerous times and each time i fall inlove over and over again.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2006

    The book review of Beloved

    Book Review of Beloved Beloved is a book that when you look at the cover the first thing that probably comes to people¿s mind is that the book might by boring. Beloved is anything, but boring. The novel is very interesting and everyone should read it at least once. This novel is by Toni Morrison and in the novel it starts off with a foreword, which tells how the author came about. The story is based on a lady name Margaret Gardner and she adds in some of her own ideas and plots. The novel takes place back during slavery time, therefore, it has many racial actions and the death of many loved ones. It also has some small aspects of the story such as structure metaphors and many other events that happen. In this story a major event happened that changed many lives forever. ¿ When the four horseman came schoolteacher, one nephew, one slave catcher and a sheriff the house on Bluestone Road was quiet they thought they were too late.¿ ¿Inside, two boys bled in the sawdust and dirt at the feet of a nigger woman holding a blood- soaked child to her chest with one hand and an infant by the heels in the other. She did not look at them she simply swung the baby toward the wall planks, missed and tried to connect a second time, when out of nowhere in the tricking time the men spent starting at what there was to stare at the old nigger boy, still mewing, ran through the door behind them and snatched the baby from the arc of it¿s mother¿s swing.¿ ¿ Right off it was clear, to schoolteacher especially, that there was nothing there to claim.¿ The only children that survived that horrible tragedy was three kids and one of the children died. Not only did she have to deal with that lost, but she always loses her husband, which no one know what happened to him. In the novel it says ¿Yet it was to the Clearing that Sethe determined to go to pay tribute to Halle. Before the light changed, while it was still the green blessed place she remembered: misty with plant steam and the decay of berries.¿Through the story an old friend came back into her life and his name was Paul D,however at this point of time their friendship became more. Paul D who is also a victim of this racism and the lost of loved ones. ¿ Mister, he looked so¿free. Better than me. Stronger, together. Son a bitch couldn¿t even get out the shell by hisself but he was still and I was¿¿ Paul D stopped and squeezed his left hand with his right. He held it that way long enough for it and the world to quiet down and let him go on.¿ ¿ A fully dressed woman walked out of the water. She barely gained the dry bank of the stream before she sat down and leaned against a mulberry tree. All day and all night she sat there, her head resting on the trunk in a position abandoned enough to crack the brim in her straw hat.¿ However,Sethe doesn¿t know where came from or why she came, but she takes her into the comfort of her home. They found out that her name was Beloved. Denver knew who Beloved was and Paul D is very uneasy around her, he thinks she¿s evil. He tries to stay away from her as much as possible. As time went on Sethe began to realize who she was she was the daughter of Sethe who died. Beloved caused many problems that affected everyone¿s life. As a result at the end of the story a group of church women came to the house and stood outside in the front and prayed until Beloved came out the house. At the end Beloved vanished away and no one ever saw her again and everything was at peace and went back to normal. Another aspec

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2002

    most difficult thing to read

    This book was assigned to our class to be our summer reading before we went begin the new school year. I am to be a Junior in High School when I return and this book was by far the most overrated and impossible book to read. I've read many books in previous years that I have enjoyed such as 'The Great Gatsby.' I don't see how this book was so highly acclaimed by critics. For some reason I never found my self interested when reading this book. These are one of those books that should be simply passed up.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2002

    Boring Beloved

    Toni Morrison's novel Beloved creeps along slowly through a confusing series of events occuring in flashbacks. From beasteality to infanticide, this novel simply did not catch my attention. I found it extremely difficult to not put down. Morrison's characters effectively portray her messages about the difficult lives of escaped slaves, but they do not satisfy the casual reader. The author tries to show how a family of escaped slaves thinks and acts and why. The problem is, little of it sounds logical. Who would really kill their own child or have intercourse with cows? In addition, the book is very straining on the mind. It is hard to follow the story as Morrison seems to flip through time at random places and with little warning or explanation. You may enjoy this book if you like deep, close reading. Personally, I couldn't keep up with all the characters and often had to keep re-reading sections of the book. The book is not overly vulgar, just a few scenes that should disgust the average reader. Beloved's confusing organization and syntax complicates everything for the reader. The important events and passages often are too subtle to even notice. For that reason, I missed out on a lot of what was going on when I first started reading. Overall I do not recommend this book to anyone except those who truly enjoy a detailed and high level novel. Anyone just looking for a book to enjoy o

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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