Tuesday, August 26, 2014

"Beloved" by Toni Morrison

This is a book people either love or hate, mostly due to the grisly content. There is nothing beautiful to be found about slavery, and this is a book about an escaped slave who isn't free. Some people cry that this is a pretentious book, and I somewhat agree- there is only so much weirdness I can take, and this book is highly weird for such a lauded and acclaimed piece of fiction. It won both a Pulitzer and a Nobel Prize for Literature, in addition to many others.

Another thing I should mention is that symbolism is utterly lost on me- I am highly immune to it and often overlook its presence because I read books for the story and characters, not metaphorical nonsense. And this book is chock full of symbols- symbols I'd never see without the boon of this book having been marked for them by a previous owner. Thanks to that person, this review is easier for me to compose- she even marked a paragraph that was "the whole point of the book". Thank you, previous owner and defiler of books! (I bet they don't hear that often).

The Plot:
Sethe and her daughter Denver live in exile in a house haunted by Sethe's deceased daughter who is known as Beloved. One day, Paul D, a slave from Sethe's enslaved past, arrives at her doorstep, and their loneliness is somewhat relieved. Paul D seemingly manages to banish Beloved's presence from the house, but is she truly gone?

I'll be honest, the synopsis for this on Goodreads makes it seem like the greatest book in the world. It isn't, at least not on my bookshelf, and so it becomes a little hard to talk about- so many people loved or hated it, and all I really can say was it was strange and underwhelming for me. It seems sacrilege of me to rate Gone With the Wind higher, but honestly I enjoyed it so much more and received more from it than reading this book.

The characters in this book have gone through hell, but I didn't emphasize with them, despite having been in similar conditions in my life. It was as if they were all frozen in time, unwilling to move on and do what needed to be done through the entire book. I've been frozen like that before, but I persevered and was resilient, because if you wallow in the misery of your past and how you've been wronged, there is no point in living: you are stuck in a death-state of your past. And that is a very sad place to be.

Spoiler Alert!
The characters kind of move on in the end, but for me it felt highly underwhelming. I still felt as if the characters were from a different planet by the end.

Beloved is a hard book for me to critique because through the entire book I couldn't feel for the characters. Through the scribblings of a former reader, I learned what the book meant, but it fell short for being such a "masterwork". I admire the author's wordsmithery, but didn't particularly enjoy the book.

Rating: 3 of 5 Stars for a good, but underwhelming read.

Content: Ages 18+ for a slew of darkness: bestiality, animal abuse, slavery, human abuse, cursing, ...homicide.

Page Count: 275 pages in my paperback edition

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