Toni Morrison: Beloved

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.

I am worn the heck out. Toni Morrison has done me in.

For most of Beloved, I wasn’t even sure what the hell was going on. If a friend hasn’t given me this link, I would have just turned in a bunch of circles. At least knowing the true story behind the fiction, there was a little bit of direction. This book is DARK though.

It’s also super deep. Of course it is. Toni Morrison wrote it–would you expect anything less than bottom of the ocean depth? There’s so much to unpack here, and it is going to take a couple of rereads before I totally understand it. I even had to pull the Wiki page to comprehend the plot. The timeline shifts back and forth all over the place, there’s a poltergeist, there is cow sex. Cow sex, Ms. Morrison? Really?

I’m not prepared to give this a rating yet. Beloved will go to my Reread pile to come back to another time. Morrison definitely requires more than one visit to understand her books, so I anticipated this. Expect an updated review in a year or two.

I do want to leave you with one quote that struck me to the soul, though:

Whitepeople believed that whatever the manners, under every dark skin was a jungle. Swift unnavigable waters, swinging screaming baboons, sleeping snakes, red gums ready for their sweet white blood. In a way, he thought, they were right. The more coloredpeople spent their strength trying to convince them how gentle they were, how clever and loving, how human, the more they used themselves up to persuade whites of something Negroes believed could not be questioned, the deeper and more tangled the jungle grew inside. But it wasn’t the jungle blacks brought with them to this place from the other (livable) place. It was the jungle whilefolks planted in them. And it grew. It spread. In, through and after life, it spread, until it invaded the whites who had made it. Touched them every one. Changed and altered them. Made them bloody, silly, worse than they ever wanted to be, so scared were they of the jungle they had made. The screaming baboon lived under their own white skin, the red gums were their own.


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