Toni Morrison's Beloved

Beloved - Toni Morrison

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.


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 [ synopsis from goodreads ]



So I finished this book about a week ago and decided to wait a bit before reviewing it to see if I could even begin to process my thoughts about it. I still can't so I'll just review it anyway.

Honestly, I don't know how I feel about this book?? I started it way back in October and read about 50 pages before school got really crazy and I stopped. And during those 50 pages, I honestly didn't take in a whole lot?? I was really, really lost whenever I would read this and I wasn't enjoying it. Flashbacks jump in unexpectedly and characters are introduced and not entirely explained. And sometimes setting changes without warning? I would sometimes read a few pages and have no idea what I was even reading. It felt like nothing was really explained. Or when it was, I was already so lost it didn't really matter. So I can't really say if I was having trouble with the way it's written or if it was because I was so busy I didn't really have time to focus on it? But, whatever the case, I had lots of trouble with it and almost didn't go back to it.

But eventually I did go back and finish and I did enjoy it a lot more when I had more time on my hands to actually process what I was reading. That being said, this still was not a book that really drew me in. I never really connected with any of the characters and I never really WANTED to know what happened. It was more a book I read because of duty than actually continuing because I couldn't stop until I knew what happened.

And that disappointed me a lot. I have heard so many good things about this book. I was very eager to read it and instead I finished feeling really disappointed because it wasn't at all what I'd expected. I read the little review snippets covering the back of my copy and couldn't find myself agreeing with any of them?? I almost started to feel like something was wrong with me because I couldn't see the things in this book they had all seen? And why couldn't I? Why couldn't I love this book and value this book as much as so many others seem to?

I don’t know if it’s because it’s a time period that I’m not wholly familiar with? Or because of the very obvious and very racist reason: that I’m white. That I can’t possibly ever come to understand the horrors of slavery because I haven’t experienced them. Sure, I can sympathize. But that’s not necessarily understanding. And I've come to realize that maybe that’s why I couldn’t fully appreciate this book.

I did find this book to be beautifully written. There were several passages I marked because they were written with such imagery, I wanted to remember them. But beautiful writing does not a great story make. Because I felt this book was beautiful written, does that make it a piece of literature that I couldn't live without? Not really. I think maybe the problem is that I just read this at the wrong time in my life. I haven't lived enough to understand it and appreciate it. Maybe I need to give it a few years and try again.

So I don't really know how to give advice for this one? I'm really glad I read it because I'd been eager to do so for so long. And I think I will try other books by Toni Morrison and see if maybe I connect with them better. Megan recommended a few that she liked and I might try giving those a whirl. Maybe I just picked the wrong first Morrison book. Maybe that was my mistake.

But as for your literary journey, I would say read this at your own risk. Just because I didn't enjoy it doesn't mean you won't. You might like it a lot better than I did. You might see it in a different light. You might get more from it. Or you might end up in the same boat with me. I just don't know. But that's your choice. And if you do get something different out of this one or understand it a little better than I did, please let me know. I would love to know what I'm missing. And then, maybe I can love this one too.


review originally posted on goodreads