Beloved by Toni Morrison: Mini Review

Beloved - Toni Morrison

Beloved is the story of Sethe, a former slave who escaped to the free state of Ohio, her daughter Denver, and the ghost that they are haunted by. There is a lot to unpack in this novel; thematically there are issues of slavery, race, mothers and daughters, PTSD, and structurally there's post modernism, eloquence or sparcity of language to convey horrible truths, how gothic conventions are applied to explore the thematic issues and whether those elevate or devalue the thematic structure. Basically there's just a whole lot in the text and the subtext to explore. It's kind of a deconstructionist's wet dream. But. Here's the thing. I think readers would be doing a disservice to the book and themselves to go into it with anything other than a desire to read the story. And I would recommend being sure you have a dedicated amount of time carved out to read it as this, I think, works best as a one sitting read, at least the first time. The writing has moments of heart stuttering beauty and eloquence but it can also be challenging in a way that very likely alienates some readers. Stream of consciousness tends to be an in or out kind of lit convention, and Morrison's use of it is further complicated by it's infrequency. The only reason I think she pulls it off is because her narrative is already so back and forth between past and present that the change in structure slips right in to place. I did't love that aspect, to be honest. I understand why she does it, but I did find it a bit too jarring. As far as the story line goes, this is a hard book. And it should be. Because slavery is a hard subject. But Morrison weaves the story in a way that it's accessible and engaging, teasing the reader with a bit of mystery before hitting us with the cold and horrible reality. It's a very skilled path she lays and there are some scenes that I will carry with me forever.