Saturday, July 11, 2015

Book Review: Beloved by Toni Morrison

My rating: 4.75/5

From Amazon: "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, its protagonist, 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. And Sethe’s new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved."

I really loved this book. The shifting points of view confused me in the beginning, but I adjusted to it after a short while. Beloved herself continued to be confusing, but I think that has to be intentional, and it didn't take me out of the story. 

I haven't read any historical fiction for a while, and maybe that's partly why I enjoyed this so much. Without being too focused on details, it's an intimate look at slavery and its effects on human beings (sociological, physical, and psychological) and what it would have been like to survive it.  I can't say that I've seen or read anything else that put me right in the middle of this time period and really made me think and feel what slavery was like (though 12 Years a Slave does come close).  Nothing was overdramatized, which would have been easy to do. The reader has to deal with the events as they happen or are brought to light, right along with the book's characters. Nothing is drawn out for the sake of forcing or emphasizing how the reader should react. 

This book somewhat reminded me of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, except that here every character was fleshed out enough to make them very real, even ones we never meet. And each one of the characters' viewpoints are made relatable. (Nothing against Castle; the townsfolk not seeming particularly real worked to develop the main character in that book; here, it works better to have each person made very real.) 

Due to the somewhat difficult writing style and some of the topics covered (rape, sex, death), I would recommend for high school and above.