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Beloved [Paperback]

Toni Morrison
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (535 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 1997
It is the mid-1800s. At Sweet Home in Kentucky, an era is ending as slavery comes under attack from the abolitionists. The worlds of Halle and Paul D. are to be destroyed in a cataclysm of torment and agony. The world of Sethe, however, is to turn from one of love to one of violence and death - the death of Sethe's baby daughter, Beloved, whose name is the single word on the tombstone, who died at her mother's hands, and who will return to claim retribution.
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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From Amazon

In the troubled years following the Civil War, the spirit of a murdered child haunts the Ohio home of a former slave. This angry, destructive ghost breaks mirrors, leaves its fingerprints in cake icing, and generally makes life difficult for Sethe and her family; nevertheless, the woman finds the haunting oddly comforting for the spirit is that of her own dead baby, never named, thought of only as Beloved.

A dead child, a runaway slave, a terrible secret--these are the central concerns of Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize-winning Beloved. Morrison, a Nobel laureate, has written many fine novels, including Song of Solomon, The Bluest Eye, and Paradise--but Beloved is arguably her best. To modern readers, antebellum slavery is a subject so familiar that it is almost impossible to render its horrors in a way that seems neither clichéd nor melodramatic. Rapes, beatings, murders, and mutilations are recounted here, but they belong to characters so precisely drawn that the tragedy remains individual, terrifying to us because it is terrifying to the sufferer. And Morrison is master of the telling detail: in the bit, for example, a punishing piece of headgear used to discipline recalcitrant slaves, she manages to encapsulate all of slavery's many cruelties into one apt symbol--a device that deprives its wearer of speech. "Days after it was taken out, goose fat was rubbed on the corners of the mouth but nothing to soothe the tongue or take the wildness out of the eye." Most importantly, the language here, while often lyrical, is never overheated. Even as she recalls the cruelties visited upon her while a slave, Sethe is evocative without being overemotional: "Add my husband to it, watching, above me in the loft--hiding close by--the one place he thought no one would look for him, looking down on what I couldn't look at at all. And not stopping them--looking and letting it happen.... And if he was that broken then, then he is also and certainly dead now." Even the supernatural is treated as an ordinary fact of life: "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," comments Sethe's mother-in-law.

Beloved is a dense, complex novel that yields up its secrets one by one. As Morrison takes us deeper into Sethe's history and her memories, the horrifying circumstances of her baby's death start to make terrible sense. And as past meets present in the shape of a mysterious young woman about the same age as Sethe's daughter would have been, the narrative builds inexorably to its powerful, painful conclusion. Beloved may well be the defining novel of slavery in America, the one that all others will be measured by. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Set in post-Civil War Ohio, this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel concerns a runaway slave and her daughter, whose lives are disrupted by a former slave, a spirit and a woman named Beloved. According to PW, this "brilliantly conceived story . . . should not be missed."
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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124 WAS SPITEFUL. Full of a baby's venom. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A black woman's escape from slavery June 12 2004
Format:Paperback
A book almost too painful to read, it reminds me in a way of the movie Schindler's list, very heavy with horrific images, make sure you pick the right mood to read this in. I enjoyed the author's going back and forth between past and present and switching between characters, it kept my attention. While I found the book easy to read it was certainly not light reading, this is a story of slavery in America described through the personal experiences of several characters. The main character Sethe is a black woman who escaped from slavery - when her "owner" tracked her and her children and was going to take them back, she actually killed one of her children rather than having her too experience life as a slave. The book begins 18 years after that event, and it is a story about facing ghosts from the past.
Harsh as the book is, there are a few moments that are truly uplifting. The scene where Sethe has arrived at Baby Suggs' house of freedom and wakes up to her first days out of slavery thinking of what to do with the day and getting to know other black people as unique personalities for the first time. Also no matter how bleak the past, there's still a promise of something better for the future symbolized by the character of Denver.
In spite of all, the human spirit survives.
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4.0 out of 5 stars AN AMERICAN TREASURE May 14 2004
By JRU
Format:Hardcover
Nothing Short of Breathtaking
~~~~ 0 ~~~~
I was 'sipping' my usual cup of tea one late afternoon, in my work's coffee shop, when I was invited by a customer to sit with him. I grabbed the opportunity, of course, as I am a lover of conversations, great or not. The person, a Fijian "native" ("I am a native, not an Indian," as the person puts it.) then talked about the "white men". Oh my, what a topic- where should I start? should I talk at all? should I just listen? Our conversation was nothing more than a conversation between two 'bored' people, it was rather quick, in fact, and very pedestrian. But despite the quickness and the "pedestrian-ity" of the conversation, I can't help but notice the passion of the other person whilst talking about "white men"- as it was full of spite.
Beloved, by Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, is full of spite as well. Lots of it. One beauty of this book is that as the reader, you'll feel it as well- the spite, the anger, the isolation, the deprivation, the lifeless, freedom-less and the loveless life of the Negroe population before, during and after the American Civil War.
As one reviewer pointed out, the examination of slavery in this book is almost "clinical", and one shouldn't find this a burden- there is no need to read a history book on the issue of slavery BEFORE dealing with the novel. Morrison is a wonderful story-teller, and I am certain that "Beloved" is not intended to be read only by learned people. And nor is it a book only to be read by Black Americans.
One is able to point out numerous themes embedded in this great book- moral ambiguity, the 'rememory' and 'disremembrance', slavery.
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3.0 out of 5 stars I don't like being patronised by fiction April 9 2004
Format:Paperback
I gave "Beloved" 3 stars because it has a theme, which is always a good feature in a book as far as I'm concerned. "Beloved" looks at slavery not only in terms of physical restriction, but emotional restriction as well. It makes the point that slaves were not expected to have human emotions - especially love. Many times the characters tell of families split up, children lost, until they become afraid to love anything at all, except inanimate things that won't disappear (a tree, in the case of Paul D, a former slave). The book also talks about self-love, self-esteem and worth, which was denied them as well. Paul D oftens muses what it means to be a "real man".
The theme is illustrated in the actions of Sethe, a slave who has run away with her four children. She has been able to keep each one since birth, nurture it and love it. She loves them with all the more intensity because she herself has never really known the love of another person or love of herself. So when the slave catchers eventually track her down, she makes a drastic decision. Sethe knows that her children face emotional death at the hands of the white man, and she decides physical death would be kinder. She kills one of her toddlers "out of love".
This theme certainly got me thinking, as I believe it was true and valuable. But when I stepped back from the book, what bothered me about it was the way it was delivered. The undertone seemed to be dogmatic, intended to arouse shame rather than sympathy or understanding. Reading between the lines, I felt like an ignorant child that was being reproved and educated. The author assumed I was apathetic and ill-informed about what happened during the time of slavery in America, and therefore needed pointing in the right direction.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreakingly Gorgeous Jan. 27 2004
Format:Paperback
I have to admit that I really don't know what to say about this book. I do know that no words could ever do it justice, but it's so wonderful, and my experience of it was so life changing, that I feel I must say something.
BELOVED is based on a true story, which makes the book all the more heartbreaking. It concerns an ex-slave named Sethe who kills her baby daughter rather than see her live a life of total misery and degradation. "Beloved," as the murdered daughter is called, is something like the past. She is not about to stay "dead and buried," and she returns to haunt both Sethe and Sethe's other daughter, Denver, just as the dark specter of slavery haunts us all, no matter what our color or ethnic background. The characters in BELOVED may try to "put the past behind them," but life, itself, won't let them. Life forces them to come to terms with the past before it even considers letting go.
BELOVED is a beautiful book because of Toni Morrison's lyrical, beautiful, mesmerizing prose and because of the life and love with which she infuses her characters. It is a horrifying book because of what Beloved represents-the intense pain and suffering of an entire generation of black slaves at the hands of merciless white owners. Being so filled with pain and heartbreak, BELOVED is not an easy book to read, but it is, nevertheless, compelling...more compelling than any other I've ever experienced.
The characters in BELOVED are so believable, so real, so intensely alive that I had a hard time believing Morrison wove much of the story from her own imagination and that only the "bare bones" were fact. So many times, I could almost feel my heart breaking for Denver, for Beloved, for Paul D. and most of all, for Sethe, whom I loved with all my heart...but I couldn't put the book down.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Giving It a Four When I Can't Really Tell Why
This book has no plot, nor does it have much character development. Beloved is written in such a way any reader would find themselves confuse just before the fifth chapter. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mandeq Jama
5.0 out of 5 stars Sad
I loved it. I saw the movie, book was much more than movie could tell. Heart warming and ver sad
Published 13 months ago by Ann L Armstrong
5.0 out of 5 stars Ghost Story or Psychological Thriller?
This is not a story to pass on. At least, that's the refrain of this dark tale of life after slavery. Read more
Published on June 1 2011 by Mia Manns
5.0 out of 5 stars A Religious Experience Not Entirely Comfortable for Skeptics
This novel is a religious experience, derived from the Exodus of the Hebrew Bible (deliverance from slavery), the miracle healing stories of the Christian Gospels, the Book of... Read more
Published on Dec 10 2007 by Carol Read
2.0 out of 5 stars relentlessly middlebrow
I felt I ought to read this book since it won the recent New York Times writers' and critics' poll for the best work of fiction of the past quarter century. Read more
Published on June 14 2006 by T. McDonell
5.0 out of 5 stars I be-loved this book
Beloved by Toni Morrison was a very interesting book. In this book the protagonist named Sethe tells here story about when she was going through slavery. Read more
Published on Feb. 17 2005 by D.Haines
5.0 out of 5 stars Hauntingly beautiful
I love books that are full of poetic writing and Morrison takes the prize for this category. Books such as "The Bark of the Dogwood" or "Song of Solomon" come... Read more
Published on July 22 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars A Mothers Love
Setha was a runaway slave from a place called "Sweet Home". She was suppose to meet up with her husband Halle that she never found. Read more
Published on March 11 2004 by Alexis Hudnall
1.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly confusing
There was so much hype over this book, especially thanks to Oprah, that I figured it had to be a great read. Read more
Published on Feb. 12 2004 by newgdolyn
1.0 out of 5 stars hahahahahahah...poseurs
Think you are smarter than everyone else?
Understand the plight of African-Americans more than anyone, because you are open-mined, unlike the conformist masses? Read more
Published on Feb. 4 2004
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