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Beloved [Paperback]

Toni Morrison
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (534 customer reviews)

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Paperback, January 1997 --  
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Audio, CD, Audiobook, Unabridged CDN $21.94  

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 Sad July 7 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I loved it. I saw the movie, book was much more than movie could tell. Heart warming and ver sad
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4.0 out of 5 stars Beloved Nov. 29 2000
In a whirlwind of broken thoughts and memories, Toni Morrison is able to leave Beloved's reader desperate for more. Morrison uses unconventional methods to attract and capture the reader's attention. By telling Sethe's story in scattered fragments, the reader is forced to read on to keep from being left in the dark. Beloved is an example of what a fugitive slave would do to prevent her biggest fear from coming true. Morrison sets up this fear with extensive background knowledge. Morrison takes generic occurrences often stereotyped with slavery and transforms them into unimaginable horror. At some points, it is almost understandable why Sethe felt she had no other choice but to spare her children from slavery. Morrison's Beloved challenges the reader's beliefs as far as the supernatural is concerned. In the very beginning, the characters force the reader to accept ghosts and angry spirits as every day incidents. It comes as no surprise to the reader when Beloved's true character and whereabouts are revealed. Morrison's unique style makes Beloved the incredible novel it is. Her artistic flare and talent make Beloved stand out against a mass of boring detail.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars relentlessly middlebrow June 14 2006
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. I feel disappointed, but I don't regret reading this book.

Like other mediocrities consecrated as sacred cows, Beloved is not really such a bad book, but its fast-track canonization gives it an aura of bogus and commercialization that can't be laid at Morrison's doorstep. Beloved is relentlessly middlebrow: it studiously avoids the merely entertaining or exciting, and falls short of inspiration or brilliance. What's left is a book written by an English professor to be assigned as homework by English teachers and Oprah Winfrey. The style seems intended to be brutal, spare and direct, yet vaguely deep--equal parts Hemingway and Melville. But somehow Morrison is not so ambitious as to write something that requires previous reading or a dictionary to understand fully. Her prose is so busy delivering all the right political messages and manufacturing symbols of sledge-hammer subtlety that there's no room left for a memorable line.

But I guess I should keep it on my shelves for others to notice my appreciation of this great and masterful voice, this American Dostoevsky.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ghost Story or Psychological Thriller? June 1 2011
This is not a story to pass on. At least, that's the refrain of this dark tale of life after slavery. It really is a story that should be passed on, because it seems as though we've forgotten the horrifying brutality of slavery in America. If the novel ends by saying that this is not a story to pass on, it begins by dedicating itself to the "sixty million and more" black slaves brought across from Africa, a few million of whom died on the journey across. Many stories of freedom focus on the stiff upper lips, the singing in the fields, the heads held high against all adversity, despite every misfortune thrown against them, and the awaiting of a brighter future.

Morrison's story is much darker than these. She focuses on the rape, the murder of children, the demeaning treatment of men and women alike, the comparison of slaves to animals and the horrible living conditions. Her characters deal with the trauma from being treated like they weren't human beings. They are bred like animals. They lose their "offspring" to their oppressors. These characters learn their worth in dollars, giving them no control over where they will go or what demeaning work will be forced upon them. To love is to risk losing the beloved. Even twenty years after the abolishment of slaves, Sethe still has to ask, "Would it be all right? Would it be all right to go ahead and feel? Go ahead and count on something?"

Beloved can be read as a ghost-story (though by no means a straight-forward one) or a psychological thriller. Something is haunting Sethe, and whether the ghost of her baby or the guilt for her own actions, the haunting is spiteful and venomous. This is a story about the trauma of the past living on in the present, and it is, in fact, a story to pass on, it's just not a story to carry around in your heart, letting it's trauma cause you pain. The tragedy of Beloved is that if you could just let it all go there's so much in the world of freedom to live for.
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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 Revelations (the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse") and African spirituality. The escaped slaves, Sethe and Paul D, and Sethe's daughter, Denver, get healed from the lasting trauma of slavery, including Sethe's murder of her second-youngest child, Beloved, a murder committed out of love, to prevent Beloved being taken into slavery. In the process of this healing a ghost-made-flesh (Beloved) has sex and gets pregnant. What I loved about this book are Morrison's characters, whom I felt I knew; Morrison's honesty and compassion, and the absolutely gorgeous writing, especially the passages describing the countryside. At the same time, I sometimes felt slightly manipulated, the kind of awkward feeling I get watching talk-show interviews about "important issues." The material is profound and moving, but the presentation at times a little canned. This is only a tiny criticism. Overall, I think, the book is a masterpiece. The subject matter, spiritual liberation from slavery, has a universal message.
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Most recent customer reviews
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
5.0 out of 5 stars A black woman's escape from slavery
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. Read more
Published on June 12 2004 by Gail Moore
4.0 out of 5 stars AN AMERICAN TREASURE
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... Read more
Published on May 14 2004 by JRU
3.0 out of 5 stars I don't like being patronised by fiction
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. Read more
Published on April 9 2004 by S. Becker
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 12 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. 13 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. 5 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreakingly Gorgeous
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... Read more
Published on Jan. 27 2004 by Totally Anonymous
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