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Beloved (Everyman's Library) [Hardcover]

Toni Morrison , A. S. Byatt
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (828 customer reviews)

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More from Toni Morrison
Nobel Prize-winner Toni Morrison is considered one of America's finest novelists for her profound and provocative works of fiction. Visit Amazon's Toni Morrison Page.

Book Description

October 17, 2006

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Toni Morrison’s Beloved is a spellbinding and dazzlingly innovative portrait of a woman haunted by the past.

 

Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has borne the unthinkable and not gone mad, yet she is still held captive by memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Meanwhile Sethe’s house has long been troubled by the angry, destructive ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.

Sethe works at beating back the past, but it makes itself heard and felt incessantly in her memory and in the lives of those around her. When a mysterious teenage girl arrives, calling herself Beloved, Sethe’s terrible secret explodes into the present.

 

Combining the visionary power of legend with the unassailable truth of history, Morrison’s unforgettable novel is one of the great and enduring works of American literature.

(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)
 


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf (October 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307264882
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307264886
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (828 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Toni Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. She is the author of several novels, including The Bluest Eye, Beloved (made into a major film), and Love. She has received the National Book Critics Circle Award and a Pulitzer Prize. She is the Robert F. Goheen Professor at Princeton University.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
201 of 219 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "That woman is crazy, [but] ain't we all?" December 30, 2005
Format:Paperback
In this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of 1988, Toni Morrison frees herself from the bonds of traditional narrative and establishes an independent style, just as her characters have freed themselves from the horrors of slavery and escaped from Kentucky to Ohio. Revealing the story of Sethe and her family as they survive the brutality of the farm, only to encounter torments even more punishing than whippings after they escape, Morrison presents scenes in a seemingly random order, each scene revealing some aspect of life for Sethe, her boys, her dead baby Beloved, and the new baby Denver, both in the past and in the present. Moving back and forth, around, and inside out through Sethe's recollections, she gradually reveals Sethe's story to the reader, its horror increasing as the reader makes the connections which turn disconnected scenes into a powerful and harrowing chronology.

As the novel opens, Sethe and Denver have lived in #124, a house in Ohio, for eighteen years, refusing to socialize and enjoying no company. When Paul D. Garner, one of the Sweet Home men and a friend of her long-missing husband, arrives on her doorstep and moves in, Sethe slowly reveals her long-buried nightmares, and the two share their stories of the events leading up to their escape. Most haunting to Sethe is the death of her young daughter Beloved, shortly after the escape from the farm, though the reader does not know for many pages the shocking manner of her death. When a ghostly figure who calls herself Beloved arrives at #124, shortly after Paul D., Morrison creates mystery and a heart-stoppingly tense atmosphere when Beloved moves in. As Beloved gradually takes over the household and seems to demand and then possess Sethe's soul, the sorrow which has burdened Sethe seems close to breaking her.
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100 of 112 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great poem, tedious novel July 7, 2006
Format:Paperback
Beloved is the story of Sethe, a runaway slave in the closing days of slavery, and the people around her - Beloved, the ghost of her dead baby, Denver, the remaining daughter, Paul D, her lover who also escaped from the same plantation in Kentucky, and Baby Suggs, her mother-in-law.

The writing is craftful and the imagery masterful. The depiction of slavery and its malevolent effects on everyone is poignant and convincing without ever being maudlin or preachy. What could have been a sad tearjerker is much too real, too convincing, calloused over with the hardness that the characters are forced to develop when everything they love, from their spouses to their children are beaten, raped, taken away, or killed at the whim of the whiteman.

But while I can appreciate the story, the structure, and the way it was written, I found it extremely tedious to read. It hangs on the thinnest of narrative thread, and whenever a plot threatens to develop, the scene ends and we find out what happened later as an aside. Most of the 275 pages are dense interior monologues, frequently repetitious, that sometimes degenerates into what seemed like random text.

The characters are drawn with detail, each distinctive and real. I feel I could recognize them on the street if one walked past. But they are as closed to us as they are to themselves. While they evoke my sympathy, they never gain my empathy. We study them, we hear them, we even feel them, but we never are them.

As an epic prose/poem, Beloved is amazingly successful. Its images are strong and convincing. As a novel, it's a long, tedious read with no payoff. I would recommend Beloved to someone who enjoys poetry. For someone looking for a story, even a difficult one, there are many far more readable.
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141 of 162 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars one of Morrison's finest books May 22, 2000
Format:Paperback
As a a high school English teacher, I've reread this book about 8 times and have taught it over the years to many students. Although it's certainly a complex novel, it's basic storyline is not hard to follow -- just the narrative style which shifts voices quite a bit. One thing that helps when reading anything by Morrison, but especially Beloved, is to remember that she herself is a classicist. Do yourself a favor and read the Medea myth -- you will suddenly understand 100 times more than you would if you skip it. I would also recommend NOT watching the movie, particularly if you are looking for explanations. Parts were well done, but the book is so rich that it seems mean to lower the dignity of the prose by showing private scenes. It's an incredibly rich and lyric novel with strains of Morrison's rendition of a kind of Magic Realism style. Don't expect everything to be realistic: there are ghosts and half painted characters that cross our normal boundaries of time. Expect to be disoriented at the beginning, but the plot clears up as you go and then you can go back and re-read the opening chapters. A great work of literature which yields more after every reading.
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59 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Power of One Mother's Love July 27, 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
What kind of mother would deliberately cause the destruction of her own beloved child? This is the question Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winner (and probably the greatest woman novelist of the twentieth century), Toni Morrison, explores in her rich, densely-layered novel, Beloved.
Set after the end of the Civil War, when slaves were freed by emancipation, but still victims of random acts of violence, the book also serves as a metaphor for the legacy of slavery and asks the chillingly relevant question: Why is the leading cause of death among young, African-American men murder by another black?
Beloved's protagonist is Sethe, an escaped slave and mother of four. Her joy at successfully escaping her former master while pregnant and giving birth before finally finding refuge at her spiritually-nourishing mother-in-law's home, vanishes a mere twenty-eight days later.
The sight of a cruel white slave owner's hat sends Sethe and her children running to a woodshed where she is forced to confront demons no loving mother should ever have to face.
Sethe's demons do not disappear when she emerges from the woodshed, however, and settles down in a small Ohio town. Instead, they remain to both haunt her and help her to understand the violence that occurred so many years previously.
Morrison, as skillful a storyteller as ever lived, spins a gorgeously heartbreaking tale in Beloved, and one whose plot is impossible to predict. With a mastery of language given to only a few, this extraordinarily talented author weaves subplot upon subplot and brings each exquisitely created character to life.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Rarely have I read a book that moved me more ...
Rarely have I read a book that moved me more than this one. Reading the story of how people in this little house process their grief and pain was fascinating.
Published 2 days ago by JoshEsquire
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Love the movie and book
Published 2 days ago by the dream
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
good condition
Published 2 days ago by snr
5.0 out of 5 stars Paperback is worth it
Wonderfully bound, and with the complete text. A great deal for a paperback!
Published 6 days ago by shellz
2.0 out of 5 stars Beloved leaves much to be desired.
While I appreciated the authors talent in writing Beloved. I had difficulty with her going back and forth so often with the characters.
Published 14 days ago by ann governale
5.0 out of 5 stars and the poetic language with unique metaphors elevate this work onto a...
This is one of the literary masterpieces you must have on your bookshelf. Morrison takes apart and puts together every single character in a way that the reader can't help but be... Read more
Published 15 days ago by The Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended to those who can handle it
Extremely disturbing but highly thought-provoking book. Although it's a fictional work, I get the feeling that it does a pretty accurate job of describing the horrors of slavery. Read more
Published 16 days ago by S. Jackson
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best novels I have ever read
One of the best novels I have ever read. This is the type of novel that you must take your time reading or you'll miss so much. The depth is extraordinary.
Published 18 days ago by Joshua Mozie
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very good book
Published 19 days ago by Tina W Kistler
1.0 out of 5 stars I didn't like it AT ALL
I found that I couldn't even finish the book. I didn't like it AT ALL!!!!
Published 1 month ago by Florence Boulden
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