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Beloved (1987)

by Toni Morrison

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
19,083359165 (3.89)2 / 1031
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. After the Civil War ends, Sethe longingly recalls the two-year-old daughter whom she killed when threatened with recapture after escaping from slavery 18 years before.… (more)
  1. 91
    Kindred by Octavia E. Butler (susanbooks)
  2. 41
    Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  3. 31
    The Known World by Edward P. Jones (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  4. 20
    A Killing in This Town by Olympia Vernon (hyacinthony)
    hyacinthony: I was reminded by Morrison's poetic narrative voice at the end of part 2 of Vernon's narrative style. Both books convey a powerful and mysterious spiritual force embedded in the violence of post-slavery african american conditions.
  5. 31
    Cane by Jean Toomer (cammykitty)
    cammykitty: An often overlooked classic.
  6. 20
    A Visitation of Spirits by Randall Kenan (lottpoet)
  7. 21
    Mojo: Conjure Stories by Nalo Hopkinson (cammykitty)
    cammykitty: This collection of short stories is nowhere near as dark as Beloved, but it's worth following these tales to the crossroads.
  8. 11
    The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (shaunie)
    shaunie: Morrison's masterpiece is a clear influence on Whitehead's book, and his is one of the very few I've read which bears comparison with it. In fact I'd go so far as to say it's also a masterpiece, a stunningly good read!
  9. 22
    The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J. Gaines (karmiel)
    karmiel: Both books include a strong woman who attempts to build her life as a free woman after escaping/exiting slavery.
  10. 00
    Bailey's Cafe by Gloria Naylor (PrincessPaulina)
  11. 11
    Philida by André Brink (PghDragonMan)
    PghDragonMan: The true meaning of freedom, the price of freedom, cruel things people do in the name of love and cruel acts performed without love are the focus of these books.
  12. 01
    Family by J. California Cooper (Cecrow)
  13. 01
    Sap Rising by Christine Lincoln (edwinbcn)
1980s (13)
Ghosts (45)
Reiny (7)
hopes (16)
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» See also 1031 mentions

English (339)  French (5)  Spanish (3)  Italian (3)  Dutch (3)  Swedish (2)  Hebrew (1)  Czech (1)  All languages (357)
Showing 1-5 of 339 (next | show all)
With Beloved, Morrison continues the tightening of the focus in time and space that she was experimenting with in Tar Baby — we're down to a time-span of a single generation, straddling the American Civil War, whilst the migration from South to North is condensed to crossing the Ohio River, between slavery on Sweet Home farm in Kentucky and freedom in Cincinnati. With a plot that draws loosely on the Medea story, she creates a level of emotional intensity that feels almost like the unity of time and space of Greek tragedy.

As ever, the theme is the enduring damage done by slavery and racism, but here we are focussing on the people who were its direct victims, rather than on their descendants two or three generations down. And Morrison keeps a step ahead of potential critics by making Sweet Home a model farm, run by people who consider themselves liberal and enlightened. Mr Garfield claims that his slaves are the only black "men" in Kentucky (all others are "boys", of course); he teaches them to shoot and allows them to learn to read and write if they wish, and even allows Halle to hire himself out in his spare time to earn his mother's freedom. But of course it is neither "Sweet" nor "Home", and Garfield's social experiments do nothing to cancel out the horrible, dehumanising effect of the condition of slavery itself, least of all when he dies and leaves the slaves at the mercy of a less enlightened successor. Once she has got herself and her children away across the river at huge risk, Sethe will go to any lengths to prevent the children being taken back to Sweet Home.

This is a tougher book than Morrison's earlier novels, strong, tight, taking absolutely no prisoners, and giving us less chance to relax over social comedy and the eccentricities of the communities it is set in, but it must surely count as her best up to that point. ( )
  thorold | May 6, 2021 |
How this book might have changed me had I read it 30 years ago!

Today, it moved me, brought laughter, tears, horror, joy. I could feel its attempts to renovate things --shift them around and upgrade my heart and my brain -- and it succeeded to some extent.

But, at my age, things are more solid, rusted, worn down, frozen in place. When I was younger, those same attempts at rearranging my soul...

If a book has such power over me today, I missed an opportunity to be a better person because of that book 30 years ago. Ghosts and regrets... ( )
  evano | Apr 24, 2021 |
The reader’s taste that I respected the most, was from the person who I respected the most, my late wife Vicky. She absolutely adored Toni Morrison’s books, Beloved even more so. I respect Morrison’s talents greatly, but I never feel as close to her books as those written by many others. Am I feeling a distance from the story because of sex, or race, or setting, possibly, but all the time I was reading it, I was always aware that I was just reading a book, and not experiencing a story? So, I can’t join the enormous world-wide choir of adoration for this book, but I am well aware that I have so much going on in my head lately that my reviews are more distant than normal. I need to find a new normal, if that’s even possible. In the end, I leave you with a strong and heartfelt recommendation from Vicky to enjoy this story that she loved so much. ( )
  jphamilton | Apr 13, 2021 |
Beautifully written and heartbreaking story illustrating the trauma of slavery. It blends horror and a ghost story with poetic and literary sensibilities. I'm just sorry I took so long to get around to reading it. ( )
  KarenBayly | Apr 10, 2021 |
Date approximate ( )
  fmc712 | Feb 18, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 339 (next | show all)
"Beloved" is Toni Morrison's fifth novel, and another triumph. Indeed, Ms. Morrison's versatility and technical and emotional range appear to know no bounds. If there were any doubts about her stature as a pre-eminent American novelist, of her own or any other generation, ''Beloved'' will put them to rest.
 
As a record of white brutality mitigated by rare acts of decency and compassion, and as a testament to the courageous lives of a tormented people, this novel is a milestone in the chronicling of the black experience in America. It is Morrison writing at the height of her considerable powers, and it should not be missed.
added by g33kgrrl | editPublishers Weekly (Aug 17, 1987)
 
Morrison traces the shifting shapes of suffering and mythic accommodations, through the shell of psychosis to the core of a victim's dark violence, with a lyrical insistence and a clear sense of the time when a beleaguered peoples' "only grace...was the grace they could imagine."
 

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Morrison, Toniprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dekker, BesselTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Natale, GiuseppeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vink, NettieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Original title
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Beloved ( [1998]IMDb)
Awards and honors
Epigraph
I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. Romans 9:25
Dedication
Sixty Million
and more
First words
124 was spiteful.
Quotations
I will never run from another thing on this earth.
Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another.
And though she and others lived through and got over it, she could never let it happen to her own. The best things she was, was her children.
Being alive was the hard part.
Nobody stopped playing checkers just because the pieces included her children.
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Please distinguish between this complete 1987 novel and any abridgement of the original Work. Thank you.
Publisher's editors
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Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

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. After the Civil War ends, Sethe longingly recalls the two-year-old daughter whom she killed when threatened with recapture after escaping from slavery 18 years before.

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