Beloved

Beloved

Audiobook CD - 2006
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Beloved has become a modern classic, read and re-read by people of all ages and races. 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
Publisher: Westminster, Md. : Books on Tape, p2006
ISBN: 9781415935354
Branch Call Number: CD FIC Morr
Characteristics: 10 sound discs (12 hrs.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in

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d
dgiard
Oct 06, 2020

"Beloved" by Toni Morrison is a ghost story. But the haunting is far from the most disturbing part of this book.

Eighteen years ago, Sethe and her children escaped the Kentucky plantation "Sweet Home" to find refuge in Cincinnati at the home of her mother-in-law Baby Suggs. Now, the Civil War is over, Baby Sugs has died, Sethe's two sons have run away, and the house is occupied by Sethe, her daughter Denver, and the ghost of her dead 2-year-old daughter known only as "Beloved".

The townsfolk shun the house - known only by the partial address of "124". Presumably, they avoid 124 because of their fear of the ghost within; but, as the story unfolds, we learn of the tragic secret that drove a wedge between Sethe and the local community.

The novel is filled with symbolism, such as the four horsemen arriving to re-capture escaped slaves; and the incomplete street address - a nod to the incomplete lives of former slaves; and the tree-shaped scars on Sethe's back, which mirror the emotional scars on her soul.

But Morrison deals explicitly with many issues - particularly the dehumanizing aspects of slavery. Families were separated permanently; people were stripped of their names (most of the male slaves at Sweet Home were named "Paul"); beatings were common; negroes were compared to animals; and sexual assault went unpunished. For some, death was preferable to a life of slavery.

This was my second reading of "Beloved" and I am glad I returned to it, even after 20 years. The story is sometimes difficult to follow as it includes numerous shifts in time and perspective. Much of the book reads more like poetry than prose, forcing the reader to approach each chapter deliberately and more slowly than most novels.

But the extra effort pays off in this beautiful and tragic story.

m
MaggieBrooklyn
Sep 13, 2020

bookriot list of top 50 historical fiction--never read it, so maybe it's time.

f
fldamato
Sep 06, 2020

I think it reflects the love a mother has for her child

k
KellyLatimer
Aug 22, 2020

A good novel that conveys the horror and depravity of slavery in the United States around the time of the civil war. The author does a good job of entwining mental and supernatural haunting as a way of illustrating the damage caused to slaves by maltreatment at the hands of both sadistic and well intentioned white Americans. While the author's writing was a bit confusing at times, almost poetical in her lack of clarity, she still managed to paint a powerful picture.

w
wyenotgo
Aug 18, 2020

This was a hard book to read: hard to find my way through Morrison’s dense imagery, overheated personal drama, circuitous narrative style, magical realism. And hard to stomach its subject matter: hardly any aspect of human degradation has been omitted. There were passages that brought to mind my recent experience in reading Dante’s Inferno, but even Dante introduced some moments of grim humor; Toni Morrison doesn’t. She doesn’t understand the concept of restraint; she gives her reader no respite, nothing that can be taken lightly, glossed over, put to the side as stage dressing. You must either swallow it whole or dismiss it altogether. It’s hardly surprising that many readers have detested the book while others praise it to excess. There can be no middle ground.
Morrison is not concerned with telling a story; attempting to follow the plot is not only frustrating: doing so misses the point. She is intent on getting across the emotional journey of her tortured characters, what conscious state they are inhabiting, rather than how they came to find themselves there or whether they are dwelling in the present or re-living bits of some former existence. The concerns of the moment are far outweighed by the business of dealing with memory, with what might have been, of roads taken, trials endured, sacrifices made.
Even though I understand all that, I still find myself resenting Morrison’s helter-skelter time-shifts that rendered the book more laborious to read than it needed to be; hence my less than ecstatic rating of it.
Trauma doesn’t stop when the event itself ends. No matter how many times you tell yourself that this is a new day, all of that agony is in the past and best left behind. We are cursed with memory and the worst horror is that which we carry in our own mind, because there is no escape. We carry it with us to the end of our days. Perhaps worse, we cannot truly share it with anyone else; what our own mind subjects us to must be borne alone. That is the cross that Sethe must bear in this brutal, horrifying novel and that's what this book is all about: the agony of memory.
"All she wanted was to go on. And she had. Alone with her daughter in a haunted house she had managed every damn thing. Why now, with Paul D instead of the ghost, was she breaking up? Getting scared? Needing Baby? The worst was over, wasn’t it? She had already got through, hadn’t she?"
In the end, after each stream of consciousness has been allowed to run its course, after all the sound and fury, Morrison reverts to poetry, or at least her own brand of free prose and we’re left more or less back where it all began. The presence of Beloved will fade, questions of her origin, her nature or whether she even existed at all cease to matter.
Paul D says "Sethe, me and you, we got more yesterday than anybody. We need some kind of tomorrow."

a
ashleyung
Aug 11, 2020

The story begins in 1873 in Cincinnati, Ohio, following the end of the American Civil War and the abolishment of slavery. The story centers around Sethe, a former slave, who lives with her eighteen-year-old daughter, Denver, on 124 Bluestone Road. 124 is known to be haunted by an abusive, malevolent spirit which is believed to be that of Sethe’s dead child. The arrival of Paul D., another former slave that Sethe previously knew from their shared time on the Sweet Home plantation, induces an apparent exorcism of the spirit. Yet the following day, a young woman who calls herself Beloved, appears in front of 124, and Sethe takes her in.

Although it’s unclear whether Beloved is truly the embodied spirit of Sethe’s dead baby or some other person, the importance lies in what she symbolizes: when Beloved arrived, she also brought with her all the “rememory” of Sethe’s past, including her time at Sweet Home and the atrocities she had endured and witnessed, her escape, and her life as a free woman thereafter.

Beyond its plot, one of the most interesting aspects of the novel is the way in which it’s written: out of linear time sequence. Throughout the novel, the tenses change, moving back and forth between the present moment and flashing-back to twenty years prior, each time revealing more and more of the characters’ past. The perspective of the novel also shifts from omnipresent point-of-view, often narrowing in on each character, to first-person, and back.

Another highlight of the novel is Morrison’s style of writing. At first, it can be difficult to follow, as Morrison has a way of describing events without ever really saying exactly what she means so that it takes the reader some time to fully grasp at it. However, when understood, her writing flows poetically and is deeply engaging.

The content of the novel is very heavy. Morrison directly brings the modern reader into experiencing the impact of slavery and its aftermath, and she is brutal in describing the inhumanity of slavery. Despite the disturbing content, or because of it, I highly recommend this book, because it’s important for everyone to understand the history of our country.

b
Bklvr1981
Oct 12, 2019

Did I read this already?? Do we have at home?

j
JStuart23
Sep 21, 2019

Probably the most profound book I have read of Ms. Morrison yet. This book truly touches on the human condition of slaves and how slavery is internalized. This book was difficult for me to follow. After each chapter I had to read a summary of the chapter at Sparknotes.com. Once I could understand what was going on and who was who, I started to feel the emotions of each of these characters.

This book is filled with symbolism. The first 8 chapters are a testament to that. From chapter 9 to the end of the book, it stops with metaphors and basically puts trauma right into your face. This is the other side of slavery that people don't really understand. Physically abuse is nothing compared to what it does to a person mentally.

This book made me feel like I was back in the classroom discussing and dissecting the book to try and interpret its inner message, but also what Toni is trying to convey.

This book should be read by all. It is food for the soul and teaches humanity through tragedy.

s
SherryMarieJ
Sep 03, 2019

Didn't care for or finish it.

s
steven_hahn
Aug 07, 2019

Very moving story that delves deep into its characters’ psyches and how they are shaped based on the tumultuous events surrounding our nation’s transformation from a slave-owning society to a free one.

The story is constructed in a way as to jump around in time, a method which makes it confusing at times. The nature of the characters also adds to the complexity of the storyline.

The prose is very beautiful and, as this is read by the Toni Morrison herself, imbued with the same passion one imagines she felt when writing it.

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Quotes

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jenniferzilm Nov 19, 2019

“She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It's good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.”

Laura_X Feb 22, 2019

Outside, snow solidified itself into graceful forms. The peace of winter stars seemed permanent.

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 06, 2016

Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.

Laura_X Feb 05, 2016

Me and you, we got more yesterday than anybody. We need some kind of tomorrow.

SPL_STARR Jun 15, 2015

"124 was spiteful."

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knitty78 Jun 10, 2014

knitty78 thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

EuSei Sep 26, 2013

EuSei thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

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EuSei Sep 24, 2012

Violence: Rape. Extreme violence.

EuSei Sep 24, 2012

Sexual Content: Oral sex, incest

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