Book Review: Beloved by Toni Morrison
July 18, 2012 23 Comments
This book had been on my wishlist for quite some time. It was ideal for the Around the USA in 90 Days challenge, as several states were mentioned, that I hadn’t come across in other books I have read for the challenge.
I didn’t really know anything about the book, except that it is a modern classic. I found it a stranger story than I had expected.
Beloved: What it is about
This story takes place in 1873, although there are many flashbacks to earlier times. Sethe is a former slave who fled with her children from Kentucky to freedom in Ohio. She moves in with her mother in law, but at some point, her toddler daughter dies and her two sons “go away”. The dead daughter gets the word “Beloved” on her head stone.
The only child Sethe has left is Denver, who was only a small baby at the time. In the current time, Denver is 18 and lives an isolated life at the house with her mother and Paul D, a man Sethe knows from her time in slavery. Denver’s grandmother has died and the neighbourhood does not want anything to do with Sethe.
When a young woman appears at the house, Denver is quick to befriend her and Sethe is happy to accept her in the family. She is called Beloved and it is suspected that she is the ghost of the small daughter that died years ago.
During the book, we find out what really happened with Sethe’s children and with Sethe’s escape from slavery. There is much, much more going on than first meets the eye!
Beloved: What I thought
This is not an easy read but it is a very interesting story. And apparently, it is based on a real story.
I found the setting and the back story interesting, but the further on in the book I got, the stranger the story got, too.
Whereas I could first (briefly) believe in Beloved as a ghost, very soon she seemed like a real person to me. I felt there was no further reference to her being supernatural, until much further on.
I loved learning about Sethe’s history and about Paul D’s. At first, the reader finds out some of the atrocities they have to suffer as slaves, but later on, you realise the full extend of what was going on, and why Sethe, once free, was so desperate to save her children from slavery.
The story often made little sense to me, and I wondered whether it was me, or? But then, a little later, whatever I didn’t understand was explained in the story. So, the story was built up in that way. Once I understood that, it didn’t bother me so much.
In all, I didn’t love this story. It was too odd for me and I didn’t appreciate the writing, Pullitzer prize (1988) notwithstanding.
Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)
Number of pages: 350 (Dutch edition)
First published: 1987
I got this book: from the library (Dutch translation: Beminde)
Genre: historical fiction
Have you read this book?
Did you enjoy it?