Based on this premise, I found it much more approachable than I thought it would be. Apart from the bits in the middle written from Beloved's point of view, the book was much easier to understand than I thought it would be. This is not to say that it is easy reading; it isn't. The content is rather horrible (if this book doesn't make you feel the horrors of slavery, I'm not sure anything would) and the writing is challenging enough that it is not a chapter-before-bed type of book.
My book club's discussion began by attempting to clear up some confusing plot points. The story isn't told chronologically, nor even from one person's point of view, nor even always in straight-forward clear-cut sentences, which add up to the writing requiring more attention from the reader. Each chapter seemed to start from an entirely new place, as if they were joined together randomly. Only towards the end of the book was I able to see how delicately the story had unfolded.
One of the girls in my group loved the writing to pieces. She filled pages with notes and quotes. There were a few parts that stood out to me as well--some descriptions and phrases launched my mind into viewing the scene from a different direction. Morrison definitely has a way with words. Here are a couple of passages that really stood out to me:
What she called the nastiness of life was the shock she received upon learning that nobody stopped playing checkers just because the pieces included her children.
"Grown don't mean nothing to a mother. A child is a child. They get bigger, older, but grown? What's that supposed to mean? In my heart it don't mean a thing."Beloved isn't a book to be read or digested lightly. The content is rough. The themes paint a picture of grief: a reflection of how much despair we, as human vessels, can hold before we crack. The story follows Sethe, a former slave living in Ohio, whose life is controlled by the spirit of a murdered child who haunts her home and her life.
Beloved isn't a book that I'd call enjoyable or recommend without a care. This is a novel that requires the reader to step up and engage in the emotional and intellectual challenge. But if you are willing to look slavery in the face and dare to admit the atrocities humans are capable of, there is a payoff. Sometimes it takes extreme examples to show us errors in the mundane. The errors of the past are a first-hand example of what to avoid as we plunge into the future.
I can't say that I'm eager to run out and read another of Toni Morrison's books--I'm going to have to work up to that. But I can say that this is a valuable piece of literature and I'm glad my book club made me read it--especially as it also counts for my personal Pulitzer challenge and my Back to the Classics Challenge! :) It didn't take me long to read, once I was able to secure some quiet time. Most of my book club's discussion ended up revolving around trying to wrap our minds around the incidents in the novel that were difficult to comprehend for one reason or another...there was no disagreement on the quality of the writing or importance of the work. It may take the right set of circumstances to get you to read Beloved, but if the opportunity presents itself don't pass it by.
Author: Toni Morrison
Published: 2006 Everymans (orig.1987)
Read for: Book Club, Pulitzer Challenge, Back to the Classics Challenge
My Rating: 4