Saturday, 2 July 2011

Beloved by Toni Morrison (4/5)

The back says: It’s the mid 1800s. At Sweet Home in Kentucky, an era is ending as slavery comes under attack from the abolitionists. The world 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.

I say: I’ve seen the film adaptation twice, but always missed the beginning and thus been confused, so I was a little apprehensive about reading it, but to my surprise I loved it.

First of all, I love Toni Morrison’s writing; her prose is always so powerful and sometimes on the verge of poetic. Beloved was no exception.

The narrative weaves from the present to the past and between the different characters in what I dare call a masterful way. The only part of the novel that I really didn’t care for was when we were inside of Beloved’s head. I understand what Morrison was doing, but for me, it would have been better if her thoughts had remained a mystery.

When I watched the film there were two places that made me cry, and it was interesting to see that I cried at the exact same places when reading this; both involving Denver, the daughter that lived. To me, she was the strongest character in this novel and the one person that shed some serious light in this dark, and quite frankly, horrifying story (aside: Kimberly Elise portrayed her with such excellence in the film). I mean, this.

"All the time, I’m afraid the thing that happened that made it all right for my mother to kill my sister could happen again. I don’t know what it is, I don’t know who it is, but maybe there is something else terrible enough to make her do it again. I need to know what that thing might be, but I don’t want to. Whatever it is, it comes from outside this house, outside the yard, and it can come right on in the yard if it wants to. So I never leave this house and I watch over the yard, so it can’t happen again and my mother won’t have to kill me too." – p 205

I find it hard reading about slavery, but I like (as much as one can use the word ‘like’ without sounding stupid) the way that Morrison deals with it, and the consequences it had on all the characters in Beloved. A lot in the novel is brutal, but a lot of it is also beautiful and promising. There are so many great quotes and passages that I look forward to reading again in the future.

Aside: My favourite quote from the film “Just cos you can’t see no chains, doesn’t mean they’re not there,” isn’t actually in the book.


  1. This book is beautiful and brutal. Morrison is definitely a "masterful" writer - she really demonstrates how powerful words can be.

  2. Oh yeah, her wordsmithery always just leaves me in awe.