Author: Toni Morrison
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The winner of the 1988 Pulitzer Prize and a finalist for the 1987 National Book Award, Beloved remains American novelist Toni Morrison’s crowning achievement. Dedicated to the ‘Sixty Million and more’ Africans and their descendants who died as a result of the slave trade, the novel remains both a mesmerising family story and a landmark depiction of the legacy of slavery, both on individuals and America’s national psyche.
Set in the mid-1800’s in the aftermath of the American Civil War, Beloved chronicles the experiences of Sethe, abandoned by her sons and living with her youngest daughter in Cincinnati. Sethe’s is a house haunted by secrets; of the violent, traumatic memories of her former enslaved life at Sweet Home, Kentucky and by shameful secrets that refuse to stay buried.
When another Sweet Home survivor, Paul D, appears at Sethe’s door, his arrival heralds the mysterious coming of a woman, calling herself only ‘Beloved’. As the revenant Beloved makes her home with Sethe, so her life becomes increasingly devoted both to her ever-increasing and contrary demands for love and her insatiable need for atonement.
Deploying a lyrical, resonant and mythically charged style whilst remaining utterly rooted in the reality of her subject matter, Beloved exemplifies Toni Morrison’s talent for telling a vital story in the right way. In its refusal to shy away from the horrors experienced by Sethe, Morrison’s novel reflects the countless – often unspoken – atrocities committed by whites against people of colour throughout history. But Beloved is not a polemic. It interweaves ideas of motherhood, family, folklore and community, creating a narrative that is never less than utterly engrossing. The result is a rich, fully realised story that, as Jane Smiley writes in the Guardian, is ‘likely to mould or change a reader’s sense of the world.’