This is one of those rare and beautiful books that begins as if it s written in a code you have to crack You have the sense early on that you ve missed some vital shred of information and it s these perceived black holes that engage your attention on an ever deepening level As is the case in the best detective novels maddening clues needed to complete knowledge are scattered deftly at every turn The past is a constant illuminating presence in every present moment Beloved exploits brilliantly so many of the possibilities the novel offers as an art form And Morrison has an ingenious control of her difficult material throughout Beloved is historical fiction, probably the best ghost story ever written along with Wuthering Heights, it has elements of playful magical realism but it s also a raging righteous social document it s an exciting detective story, a rich and character strong family saga and a moving grown up romance Rare to encounter a novel written with so much heart combined with masterful artistry. Beloved is a novel about haunting it is a novel about the human inability to move on from the past and how easily it can resurface We may try to move on, but it never really leaves us And when the past is painful and full of blood it echoes for an eternityYou know as well as I do that people who die bad don t stay in the ground Enter Beloved, daughter of Sethe, a girl killed by her mother many years previous to escape the shackles of slavery Was it murder Was it mercy Was it both I don t have the answers, though the past never stays dead The American slave trade can never be forgotten nor should it Although Beloved is the physical manifestation that is haunting her mother, the reality is somewhat different It is her past it is the injustice she faced and a decision she was forced to make that will never leave her Beloved is just the embodiment of it The novel flicks around in time, moving forwards, backwards and then returning the present Sometimes it s mid chapter with no clearly defined shift A character s mind will wonder, returning to a time or place which helps to define who they are in the now Beloved is no light reading It is a demanding book The plot shifts around with little explanation, point of views change randomly and quickly But, again, this is because the past never truly leaves us We may be in the present, though our history will always haunt us And here America is being haunted by her dark past Tony Morrison s prose is eloquent and deals directly with psychological trauma It s than physical scars and life wasted in servitude it s about what happens after The shackles may have been removed but each former slave will always feel them on their wrists biting into their skin They flock together, building new communities out of those who experienced, and are still experiencing, the pain and hell slavery wrought them They do their best to carry on and make new lives, though racial prejudice still remains And it will for many years But who are they now There is also a sense of closeness, of inexperience The world is a vast place, but for former slaves, for those born into slavery, it is dauntingly huge Imagine spending your entire life in one enclosed space, knowing but a small handful of people, and then suddenly having the world made available to you You don t know it You don t understand it All you have ever known is forced labour and the slave master s whip Where do you go Where do you belong Thus, men like Paul D are forced to wonder with no real sense of belonging They go from town to town, relationship to relationship, without establishing a strong sense of identity or roots Pain permeates this narrative It oozes out of the characters and their sad experiences Morrison gets to the heart of the matter and she is uncompromising in her honesty Certainly, not a novel to be missed though I was glad to finish it. Staring Unflinchingly Into The Abyss Of Slavery, This Spellbinding Novel Transforms History Into A Story As Powerful As Exodus And As Intimate As A Lullaby Sethe Was Born A Slave And Escaped To Ohio, But Eighteen Years Later She Is Still Not Free She Has Too Many Memories Of Sweet Home, The Beautiful Farm Where So Many Hideous Things Happened Her New Home Is Haunted By The Ghost Of Her Baby, Who Died Nameless And Whose Tombstone Is Engraved With A Single Word Beloved Filled With Bitter Poetry And Suspense As Taut As A Rope, Beloved Is A Towering Achievement By Nobel Prize Laureate Toni Morrison Updated, August 2019 RIP, Toni Morrison Over the past 15 years, I ve tried a couple of times to read Toni Morrison s epic, Pulitzer Prize winning novel about murder, guilt, ghosts and the brutal, complex physical and psychological legacy of slavery.Something about the dense, poetic prose and the elliptical nature of the storytelling made it impenetrable After a chapter or two, I d give up, perplexed And I ve read William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf This made Oprah s Book Club I m so glad I persevered.About a third of the way in, I realized just how carefully Morrison had constructed the narrative, which pivots on two horrific events one involving a mother killing her child inspired by the actual story of a woman named Margaret Garner , and the other, which informs the first, about an attempted escape by a group of slaves at a plantation and its violent aftermath.The setting is 1873, Ohio Sethe and her daughter Denver live in a house on 124 Bluestone Road Once a lively place where freed slaves congregated after Emancipation to get news and socialize, it s now desolate and creepy, haunted by the spiteful ghost of Sethe s dead two year old child not a spoiler, since it s introduced in the first few pages The matriarch Baby Suggs Sethe s mother in law is now dead, and Sethe s two sons have fled the premises.When Paul D enters the home, things begin to change He and Sethe worked on the same plantation called Sweet Home, ironic because it was anything but decades earlier They share history, good and bad, and harbour secrets from the other Paul D s presence makes the ghost leave, and he alienates the shy, awkward Denver and begins to make Sethe unshackle herself from the past until a mysterious stranger with no lines on her hands or face appears at 124 to mess things up Beloved overflows with stories some tragic, some vicious, some joyous, some brimming with love.It takes a while to get all the names straight I found myself flipping back to see when a character was introduced It s not a long book, average length really, but it s dense and full of layered, complex imagery about water it s not a coincidence that Sethe s name suggests Lethe, the river of forgetfulness and oblivion , colours, milk, metal I ll never forget the description of Sethe s back, so severely scarred from whippings it resembles a multi branched tree, or Paul D talking about slaves having their mouths pried open with horses bits the wildness that shot up into the eye the moment the lips were yanked back.Other things that will haunt and disturb me the idea of black slaves being compared to animals the sequence in which Paul D discovers just how much he s worth in dollars and cents, compared to Sethe, who is basically a breeding machine to create slaves imagine what that would do to a person s a people s sense of self worth These are balanced out with scenes of kindness and generosity.Not all the white characters are bad one feisty young poor white girl helps Sethe deliver her child in a boat, and there s a subtle portrait of a pair of generous, older white siblings who radiate humanity And unlike Walker s The Color Purple, the black men in the book aren t all fools and rapists Morrison s vision is broad, expansive, clear eyed but ultimately forgiving.The language is earthy yet majestic, with echoes of Faulkner and even the King James Bible It s often hard to read because it feels like you re wading through an ocean of memories, some of which are buried deep and trying to surface.The point of view shifts repeatedly In one remarkable section, we re given the POV of the dead baby in which she s caught between death and life Morrison gives you various takes on the same scene but spreads them throughout the book, so you circle around events trying to get to the truth Is the truth possible Do some things remain unknowable There s unspeakable, real human pain at the centre Shame Desperation Guilt Generations of it But like much great art, Beloved offers a glimmer of hope and redemption at the endSethe, says Paul D , me and you, we got yesterday than anybody We need some kind of tomorrow Amen. It has been a while since I last was online according to this computer s calculations thirteen days ago since then I have finished the monumentally loved Beloved The only way I can describe this sure classic is it s a mix between the most brilliant of Hawthorne his Scarlet Letter bears plenty of similarities to Beloved since it too deals with a time of intense persecution in this country the roles women played at such historical crossroads the ghosts of the burdensome past making cameos in the present haunted house motifs galore and the secret history which comes back again and again the vibrant poetry of Maya Angelou This was written in the 198 Hardly a long time ago, it was analyzed embraced then as it is now for its hodgepodge of ghost story elements, romance, and historical biography Because slavery is such a muddy record in our books, it is certain documents like these, which widen the scope significantly to include various P.O.V.s jumps in time, that are truly significant to American Literature The book mirrors the psyche of a woman who chooses liberating death for her child, rather than the awful clutch of slavery It decidedly marks a usually undocumented moment when ex slaves got something close to freedom and had to find out how to live, survive, or try to make way for the upcoming generation outside of slavery. RIP, Beloved Toni Morrison You changed the way I read Sometimes reality is too painful to address in plain, simple narrative Sometimes truth has to be approached in circling movements, slowly getting to the heart of the matter through shifting, loosely linked stories that touch on the wound ever so lightly, without getting too close too fast Sometimes I read to escape my reality, only to find myself in a universe endlessly complicated, painful, difficult to understand and follow Sometimes basic statements like I could never understand why a mother would kill her child seem to dissolve, leaving a confused feeling of not knowing exactly any what is right and what is wrong, given specific cruel circumstances.Sometimes novels shake me and leave me scarred, endlessly sad and grateful at the same time.Beloved Toni Morrison Your voice sounds loud and clear through the fog of political thought Your characters live and breathe and DO NOT ALLOW FOR simplistic explanations If you want to know what slavery does to people, read Beloved.It will not leave you unaffected It left me speechless. This is probably my least favorite book I have ever read I think I hate it even because so many people like it so much Unlike really trashy novels, people actually try to argue that this is a great book But it definitely embodies all the things that make me hate books It s heavy handed with its message, which ultimately ruins some pretty spectacular imagery Its also just a giant pastiche of people who can actually write, which makes it just feel disjointed and annoying since it switches between standard narration and stream of conciousness and surrealism in intensely awkward ways It s not even like that switching between different narrative structures is inherently bad, but this book definitely does it in the most ridiculously annoying way of any book I have ever read Along with the heavy handedness of the whole affair is that this whole book is just trying to make me guilty for being white It is probably one of the top 3 most unfortunate things in the history of the world that slavery not only ever existed but went on for so long, but I already get that So really Toni, no need to beat that into my head with a bloody axe So to speak.Seriously, even thinking of the entire month I spent reading and analyzing this giant piece of trash gives me a headache I m convinced that this book strikes the ultimate low point on the acclaim vs enjoyability graph It s just artsy fartsy nonsense for people who want to feel like they re reading real literature when they re not I m pretty sure I don t have proper words to express my hatred for this book Or, rather, if I expressed my hatred for this book, my words would not be proper , so I ll just leave it at that. There are reasons why Toni Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature Beloved may be the biggest one The structure is a ghost story about a woman who killed her own children rather than see them be dragged back from freedom to live a life of slavery, and how the guilt of that act comes back to haunt her But the real payload here is a portrayal of the slave existence, how it seeps into every pore, affects every emotion, defines one s world view, how one values education, how willing one can be to love another human being It is a triumph, a masterwork by one of the world s great writers, working so well at several levels Sethe is the main character Having already sent her children ahead, this pregnant woman flees slavery in the south and takes up residence with her grandmother, Baby Suggs But when a posse comes to bring her back, she kills her children rather than allow them to become slaves.There is a lot here about identity, defining oneself in one s own terms and not the owner s for example Also, there is commentary on the need for and value of community Sethe s daughter Denver never strays from their home, but when she finally does, she finds that there is help to be had When Paul D is in need the community of free blacks is than willing to help.The story is based on a real case, on in which Margaret Garner remembered in this book as the family name given to the less horrendous slave owners in 1856 killed her children for the same reason.Most men in this book are oppressors, but a few rise above Mister Garner, although a slave owner, shows at least some signs of humanity Paul D is the most developed male character, struggling with his fears and weaknesses, but in search of truth and peace Morrison utilizes expected literary devices like foreshadowing an early image of a white clad figure hovering over Sethe , flipping back and forth among several time lines, changing from third person to first, classic references p 174 When the four horsemen came schoolteacher, one nephew, one slave catcher and a sherrif the hours on Bluestone Road was so quiet they thought they were too late to great effect More than just a great ghost story or an outstanding tale of slavery, Morrison has written a classic of 20th century American literature It will be read forever. BelovedYou are my sisterYou are my daughterYou are my face you are meI have found you again you have come back to meYou are my belovedYou are mineYou are mineIt s 6 o clock in the morning and I have finished with one of the best books I have ever read in the course of my short life I am sleepless and I need a moment to organize my thoughts, sort out my feelings Come back to real life But I can t.A part of me is still with Sethe and her daughters, Denver and Beloved at 124 A part of me is being tied to a pole and whipped mercilessly for eating a shoat I skinned, butchered and cooked myself A part of me is giving birth to children of fathers who forced themselves on me A part of me is still wondering whether my husband Halle is out there alive and free or long dead A part of me is burying the daughter I killed with a handsaw because I couldn t live to see her being pushed into the endless abyss of torture and humiliation that I had to endure myself A part of me is engraving the wordBelovedon the headstone of my dead girl, because she has no name But it is not I It is Sethe and Sethe is not I.I m not even Baby Suggs Sethe s mother in law who never had a chance to recognize that she was a human being with a beating heart Baby Suggs, who only looked at her own hands at the sunset of life and came to the realization that they were her own Her very own for her own use and not the use of another Baby Suggs, who was forced to accept the kindness of being bought out of slave labour by her own son, at the cost of never seeing him again, never knowing what happened to him.I m not Paul D, being made to wear neck braces as punishment for an act of belligerence, unable to move his head Deeply afraid of starting a new life and adding a purpose to it not knowing what to do with the new found freedom after the Civil War Afraid of loving too much and losing too much because of it.I m just a lucky Indian girl who was born in an era free from the worst form of human rights violation that ever existed on the planet I was not alive during the period of systematic brutalization of one particular race by another just because one proclaimed racial superiority over the other.I was not in the plantations of Kentucky or Georgia or the Carolinas before or after the Civil War I wasn t in the hell called Sweet Home.But Sethe was So were Halle, Paul D, Sixo, Paul A and Baby Suggs and the unnamed ones And a part of me is with them and I still cannot wrest it away.I can perhaps ramble on and on and still be completely unable to write a proper review ofBelovedAnd I won t even try to summarize the book in a few sentences, since that would be deeply irreverent of me Beloved is not just a masterpiece, not even just a remarkable literary achievement Beloved is the beauty of the resilience of the human spirit Beloved is about hope and endurance Beloved tells us about unspeakable cruelty and abuse inflicted on humanity by humanity itself Beloved reveals festering psychological wounds, deep emotional scars that could never ever heal Beloved is profoundly lyrical and empathetic in its depiction of grotesque events that unfolded during the most ignominious part of America s history Beloved wrenches your heart out, shreds it into a million tiny pieces but then stitches all the pieces together and hands your heart back to you all bloodied and messed up.Maybe a few years down the line when I read Beloved again, I will write a coherent review and sound less emotional Maybe I will get every cryptic message Toni Morrison intended for her reader to receive and decode Maybe I will not But I will try.And I will read this book again when I feel like my life is difficult or I can t go on any I m sure Sethe and Beloved will be there to hold my hands and lead me forward.I cannot write any I must go and find myself another tissue.P.S Apologies for the spoilers I have ended up including in the review But I just had to write this the way I did. I don t give books low marks lightly If anything, I am prone to being carried away by the author s enthusaism and rate books highly than they deserve I am an aspiring author, myself, and that also leads me to be kind to the books.That being said, I really hated this book.I like fantasy and magical realism I find the dreams and allegories that live just underneath the skin of the world we can readily see and touch endlessly fascinating I like my stories intense and emotional, and I like it when characters are so full of passion that it obscures their sense of the world around them.That being said, I really hated this book.I found Beloved incomprehensible to the point of absurdity It s one thing to have a book that is full of magic and poetry or to have a character s passion overwhelm their ability to describe the world from time to time, but I also need to know what is going on For the story to grab me, I need to know what the story is.Did I mention that I really hated this book I know it s trendy to read Toni Morrison, but I recommend this book to absolutely no one I found it a borderline insulting waste of my time.
The Bluest Eye ,
- 324 pages
- Toni Morrison
- 02 February 2018 Toni Morrison