Sunday, February 8, 2009

Book Review

Toni Morrison
number of pages: 275

Before I get to a review I have a story to tell. When I was growing up, I lived in a mostly white town. In fact, I think there was only one other black family in the whole town. So, my grandmother felt the need to constantly give me books written by black authors, and try to force me to read them. I would not have had a problem with it if it had not been for the fact that the books that she picked always seemed to deal with slavery. And for 8 or 9 year old me that topic was too distressful. So, one day she gave me Beloved to read.

Yes, my grandmother gave me, a 8/9 year old little girl, Beloved. Needless to say, that I was so confused by the first chapter. This book is hard for some adults to read.I cannot begin to understand why she thought it was appropriate for a child. I have a feeling that she did not read the book herself but did like the concept. But anyways, I did not pick up that book until two decades later and was quick to tell anyone who asked that it was difficult and I would never try to read it again. In walks the Pulitzer Project and 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die and Beloved is on my TBR list.

What a difference twenty years make. I still believe that Beloved is a difficult read. The language and imagery is challenge. But I have to say that I enjoyed every last page. Morrison is a master with the English language. I could see the characters, the town, their past, and their present. For me Morrison made it all come alive. Now that I have really read the book, I can't remember what I found so difficult about it. Maybe my vocabulary and reading ability have evolved (I seriously hope so or the public school system has a lot to answer too).

The characters were very well thought out and portrayed. Each of the main characters (Sethe, Paul D, and Denver) grow throughout the novel. Morrison took the reader inside their thoughts and let you see their feelings and the reasons for their actions. Nothing was left to guess about. Each character had their own personality and past that shaped their decisions. It was intriguing to see how the events in the past lead them to the point where the story takes place. How these events shape how they each react to Beloved's presence.

Now for some people this will be a difficult read. While I enjoyed how Morrison was able to pact so much into the story, I can also see where it would make it hard for some. There are a lot of different things going on. A good portion of the story is dealt with through flash backs. Sethe, has flashbacks to her time as a slave and her escape. Paul D, has flashbacks to his own enslavement, incarceration, and all the hardship he had to go through. Denver has flashbacks to her lonely painful child. Sometimes it can be hard to figure out since Morrison gives you bits and pieces at a time. But I did enjoy her method, it just made me continue to turn the page.

Another thing that can be hard is the imagery. While Morrison does not go into great detail, the subject matter is harsh. And the things that characters go through are sad and difficult (it is a post slave tale). The decisions that they made at times can be unthinkable to someone not in their position.

Pros: Language, Imagery, Characters, Plot
Cons: Language, Imagery

Overall Recommendation:

I personally loved it and would recommend it. But I would also warn that this book is not for everybody.

Review submitted by Mahogany Howard


Canned Ice said...

I realize that many people are turned off by this book, but I for one loved it. Thanks for the in-depth review. I particularly liked the way she addressed "nice" white plantation owners. She showed that even if they were considered too soft, or nice, ultimately they still used men and women as property. It was my first intro to Morrison, but I plan to read more.

Annette Bell said...

This is my favorite Morrison book, great review!