Toni Morrison’s books are never really uplifting. They are simply brutally honest and often heartbreaking. ‘Beloved‘, her fifth novel, is certainly no different. It is layered with such magnificently deep emotions and with utmost complexity that the book can be slightly disturbing. And that’s why I say that ‘Beloved’ is a great, well researched book but certainly not for weak hearted people who can’t swallow the bitterness of a book.
Sethe, a runaway slave, lives alone with her daughter, Denver, in 124, a house haunted by Sethe’s dead first daughter, Beloved. Set in the mid 1800s’ where an end to slavery’s era has brought numerous upheavals in the lives of former slaves-physical,social and emotional . Paul D is one such slave and his visit to 124 changes Sethe’s fortunes temporarily. When her daughter Beloved’s ghost or spirit (or whatever you want to call it) returns, the equation of normality that Sethe has formed for 18 years keeps turning until she is eventually completely devastated by Beloved’s actions.
‘Beloved‘ is a heartbreaking story where despair and depression hit you hard when you read through the myriad layer upon layer of hurt, injustice, and brutality all characters have faced in their lives. From the first page itself, Morrison thrusts the reader into the thick of things and then slowly yet in a hard-hitting way, reveals the flashbacks and the past that makes Sethe’s painful present. It exposes the reader to the different and highly complex emotions the characters constantly go through and to the fact that a lot of these emotions, perceived by society as ‘crazy’ are often formed by racism and discrimination only.
The only possible drawback I see is the introduction of the magic realism, Beloved’s spirit. For me, it took away the gut wrenching reality that the book portrays. Otherwise the book is as A.S. Byatt said, “a magnificent achievement….an American masterpiece.”