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Beloved

Cover of Beloved

Beloved

Recently named the Best Work of American Fiction in the last 25 years by the New York Times Book Review. First published in 1987, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, BELOVED has become a modern classic, read and re-read by people of all ages and races. 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.

Recently named the Best Work of American Fiction in the last 25 years by the New York Times Book Review. First published in 1987, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, BELOVED has become a modern classic, read and re-read by people of all ages and races. 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.

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  • From the book

    I



    124 WAS SPITEFUL. Full of a baby's venom. The women in the house knew it and so did the children. For years each put up with the spite in his own way, but by 1873 Sethe and her daughter Denver were its only victims. The grandmother, Baby Suggs, was dead, and the sons, Howard and Buglar, had run away by the time they were thirteen years old--as soon as merely looking in a mirror shattered it (that was the signal for Buglar); as soon as two tiny band prints appeared in the cake (that was it for Howard). Neither boy waited to see more; another kettleful of chickpeas smoking in a heap on the floor; soda crackers crumbled and strewn in a line next to the doorsill. Nor did they wait for one of the relief periods: the weeks, months even, when nothing was disturbed. No. Each one fled at once--the moment the house committed what was for him the one insult not to be borne or witnessed a second time. Within two months, in the dead of winter, leaving their grandmother, Baby Suggs; Sethe, their mother; and their little sister, Denver, all by themselves in the gray and white house on Bluestone Road. It didn't have a number then, because Cincinnati didn't stretch that far. In fact, Ohio had been calling itself a state only seventy years when first one brother and then the next stuffed quilt packing into his hat, snatched up his shoes, and crept away from the lively spite the house felt for them.

    Baby Suggs didn't even raise her head. From her sickbed she heard them go but that wasn't the reason she lay still. It was a wonder to her that her grandsons had taken so long to realize that every house wasn't like the one on Bluestone Road. Suspended between the nastiness of life and the meanness of the dead, she couldn't get interested in leaving life or living it, let alone the fright of two creeping-off boys. Her past had been like her present--intolerable--and since she knew death was anything but forgetfulness, she used the little energy left her for pondering color.

    "Bring a little lavender in, if you got any. Pink, if you don't."

    And Sethe would oblige her with anything from fabric to her own tongue. Winter in Ohio was especially rough if you had an appetite for color. Sky provided the only drama, and counting on a Cincinnati horizon for life's principal joy was reckless indeed. So Sethe and the girl Denver did what they could, and what the house permitted, for her. Together they waged a perfunctory battle against the outrageous behavior of that place; against turned-over slop jars, smacks on the behind, and gusts of sour air. For they understood the source of the outrage as well as they knew the source of light.

    Baby Suggs died shortly after the brothers left, with no interest whatsoever in their leave-taking or hers, and right afterward Sethe and Denver decided to end the persecution by calling forth the ghost that tried them so. Perhaps a conversation, they thought, an exchange of views or something would help. So they held hands and said, "Come on. Come on. You may as well just come on."

    The sideboard took a step forward but nothing else did.

    "Grandma Baby must be stopping it," said Denver. She was ten and still mad at Baby Suggs for dying.

    Sethe opened her eyes. "I doubt that," she said.

    "Then why don't it come?"

    "You forgetting how little it is," said her mother. "She wasn't even two years old when she died. Too little to understand. Too little to talk much even."

    "Maybe she don't want to understand," said Denver.

    "Maybe. But if she'd only come, I could make it clear to her." Sethe released her daughter's hand and together they pushed the sideboard back against the wall. Outside a driver...
Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine Easily she stepped into the told story that lay before her. Toni Morrison's reading of Beloved is a stirring experience. She transports you to the dooryard, to Sweet Home plantation, to 124 Bluestone Road as she weaves in and out of the story of Sethe, a runaway slave, and her daughters. Morrison is there with you, speaking slowly, making each image live in your imagination. She speaks of colors--a pink tongue, a blue handkerchief, yellow flowers--each hue becomes so vivid against a background of browns, blacks and gray. She tells of unimaginable hardship and tragedy, and makes the power of the words get you through it. Morrison handles the dialogue among characters with impressive skill, not for characterization, but for the pacing and rhythm that is so essential to her literature. Banter is, at times, very contemporary, while other conversations have a highly stylized and mystical tone. Anyone who has read Beloved in the written form will be stunned by how much more Morrison has to share in the oral form. Don't miss this treasured author and storyteller at her magnificent work. R.F.W. Winner of AUDIOFILE Earphones Award (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine
  • John Leonard, Los Angeles Times

    "A masterwork. . . . Wonderful. . . . I can't imagine American literature without it."

  • Margaret Atwood, The New York Times Book Review "A triumph."
  • Chicago Sun-Times "Toni Morrison's finest work. . . . [It] sets her apart [and] displays her prodigious talent."
  • The New York Times "Dazzling. . . . Magical. . . . An extraordinary work."
  • Newsweek "A masterpiece. . . . Magnificent. . . . Astounding. . . . Overpowering."
  • San Francisco Chronicle "Brilliant. . . . Resonates from past to present."
  • People "A brutally powerful, mesmerizing story. . . . Read it and tremble."
  • New York Review of Books "Toni Morrison is not just an important contemporary novelist but a major figure in our national literature."
  • The Washington Post "A work of genuine force. . . . Beautifully written."
  • The New Yorker "There is something great in Beloved: a play of human voices, consciously exalted, perversely stressed, yet holding true. It gets you."
  • The Baltimore Sun "A magnificent heroine . . . a glorious book."
  • Cosmopolitan "Superb. . . . A profound and shattering story that carries the weight of history. . . . Exquisitely told."
  • Milwaukee Journal "Magical . . . rich, provocative, extremely satisfying."
  • The Plain Dealer "Beautifully written. . . . Powerful. . . . Toni Morrison has become one of America's finest novelists."
  • The Christian Science Monitor "Stunning. . . A lasting achievement."
  • USA Today "Written with a force rarely seen in contemporary fiction. . . . One feels deep admiration."
  • The Village Voice "Compelling . . . . Morrison shakes that brilliant kaleidoscope of hers again, and the story of pain, endurance, poetry and power she is born to tell comes right out."
  • Glamour "A book worth many rereadings."
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatc "In her most probing novel, Toni Morrison has demonstrated once again the stunning powers that place her in the first ranks of our living novelists."
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