Author: Toni Morrison
Length: 324 pages
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction.
Publisher / Year: First by Charto and Windus/1987; then by Vintage/1997 (I read the Vintage version)
Source: The Hub , Enugu
Why I Read It: Out of Curiosity. Heard it discussed in BBC’s World Book Club and I admired her erudition and effluence.
Date Read: 20/07/12
Reviewed by: Chioma Iwunze-Ibiam
Set in the 1800s, the story is divided into two basic parts: the past and the present. Most of the past shows how the slaves of Sweet Home lived before they dispersed in search of freedom and greener pastures. The present, on the other hand is set in Ohio County, Kentucky.
The novel opens with Sethe and her daughter, Denver, dealing with the ghost’s fury in their haunted house. From the way the outrage is handled, it’s obvious that Seethe and Denver have grown accustomed to the ghost’s ravaging visits. But not the neighbours because 124 is one house nobody visits. Sethe had two sons who ran away from 124 because they were afraid of Sethe, and tired of the haunted house. it is a story about slaves and their pre-slavery absolution and post-slavery absolution experiences. Characters like Paul D, Beloved, Halle, SixO and Headmaster, propel the prose forward; up to its climax and down again to it’s resolution.
Paul D’s appearance at 124 changes everything. First, he beats off the ghost. Then, Sethe basks in the warmth of his love. Their conversations enlighten about their days of slavery at Sweet Home. Then, a strange girl (named Beloved) worms her way into the lives of the occupants of 124. Slowly, she seeks retribution. Paul D is her first victim and she is ruthless and tactful in the way she evicts Paul D. it is only when things start to fall to apart that Beloved’s personality becomes revealed to the adults. Beloved is the ghost reincarnated.
The tone of the story is calm and imbued with the rhythms and cadences of prose poetry. The high diction and literary language of the narrative makes the story a little bit difficult to read. But I found the experience rewarding. In fact, there was a chapter I reread five times because I was in love with the structure. Actually, it was the chapter about Paul D’s involuntary move out of 124. The effect of Toni Morrison’s narrative is both magical and enchanting; it forces the reader to shut out all doubt and to absorb the story without necessarily analyzing its plausibility.
Reading Beloved was in itself, a completely new experience for me. The journey was worth it. I felt genuinely in love with the story, in a way that I haven’t felt in quite some time. Why had I waited so long to read any of Toni Morrision’s books? There’s so much to learn from her prose poetry. My curiosity has opened up a deep longing for her prose poetry. Is this how beautiful writing should make a person feel?