Beloved | Toni Morrison | Guest Review

Wednesday, 22 June 2016


Toni Morrison's novel, 'Beloved', follows the story of Sethe, her daughter Denver, and their life at 124 Bluestone Road, Cincinnati, Ohio. It is set in the mid-1800s after the American Civil War. I chose this book because it was on a list of "30 Books to Read Before You're 30". It is does not contain anything I would normally go for - neither the setting, the historical period nor the subject matter.

The story is non-linear and meandering. We learn pieces of information here and there before returning to the suffocating insular life of Sethe and the people around her. She does not engage in the community except by going to work, and her past haunts her constantly. The book reminds me of "stream of consciousness" novels in its meandering narrative. Events or explanations are hinted at vaguely before meandering off somewhere else.

We know that Sethe escaped the Sweet Home plantation in Kentucky where she was kept as a slave. We learn that the house at number 124 belonged to Baby Suggs, Sethe's mother-in-law. Sethe's husband paid their owner for Baby Suggs to go free and live as a free black woman in Ohio, a free state.

The "blurb" of this book tells us that Sethe cannot move past the fact that she murdered her baby daughter, Beloved. One day Beloved mysteriously returns to stir up the life Sethe has made for herself, taking all of her love and attention.

I really did not enjoy this book, despite the fact that it was well-written. The plot whirls around and around in circles, and hints of Sethe's past drove me nuts because it took so long to eke them out. I enjoyed the community of black people we get to know in the later part of the novel, which shows that they were all there for each other if Sethe had just opened her eyes. The descriptions of the white slavers and the good, caring whites were powerful and contrasting. However, the plot took too long to gain any attention of mine, it didn't go anywhere except backwards, and it frustrated me to no end. I understand that Toni Morrison wrote well about how the past haunts the present and the past can repeat itself if you don't stop it, but it was not a writing method I enjoyed. I am not going to recommend this book to anybody in a hurry!

★★

This review was submitted by guest blogger Jemma

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