The novel powerfully portrays the meanings of what it means to be owned by another and the difficulty of owning oneself. Mythic in scope, BELOVED is an attempt to grapple with the legacy of slavery.
Born Chloe Anthony Wofford, in 1931 in Lorain (Ohio), the second of four children in a black working-class family. Displayed an early interest in literature. Studied humanities at Howard and Cornell Universities, followed by an academic career at Texas Southern University, Howard University, Yale, and since 1989, a chair at Princeton University. She has also worked as an editor for Random House, a critic, and given numerous public lectures, specializing in African-American literature. She made her debut as a novelist in 1970, soon gaining the attention of both critics and a wider audience for her epic power, unerring ear for dialogue, and her poetically-charged and richly-expressive depictions of Black America. A member since 1981 of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she has been awarded a number of literary distinctions, among them the Pulitzer Prize in 1988.
Mixed with the lyric beauty of the writing, the fury in Morrison's (Song of Solomonp latest book is almost palpable. Set in rural Ohio several years after the Civil War, this haunting chronicle of slavery and its aftermath traces the life of a young woman, Sethe, who has kept a terrible memory at bay only by shutting down part of her mind. Juxtaposed with searing descriptions of brutality, gradually revealed in flashbacks, are equally harrowing scenes in which fantasy takes flesh, a device Morrison handles with consummate skill. The narrative concerns Sethe's former life as a slave on Sweet Home Farm, her escape with her children to what seems a safe haven and the tragic events that ensue. The death of Sethe's infant daughter Beloved is the incident on which the plot hinges, and it is obvious to the reader that the sensuous young woman who mysteriously appears one day is Beloved's spirit, come back to claim Sethe's love. Sethe's surviving daughter, Denver, immediately grasps the significance of Beloved's return and so does Paul Dno period after D, another escapee from Sweet Home; but Sethe herself resists comprehension, and, as a result, a certain loss of tension affects the latter part of the narrative. But this is a small flaw in a novel full of insights, both piercing and tender, with distinctive, memorable characters, flowing prose that conveys speech patterns with musical intensity and a brilliantly conceived story. As a record of white brutality mitigated by rare acts of decency and compassion, and as a testament to the courageous lives of a tormented people, this novel is a milestone in the chronicling of the black experience in America. It is Morrison writing at the height of her considerable powers, and it should not be missed. BOMC main selection. (September 16)
Morrison's prize-winning, masterly, and disturbing novel Beloved should be an essential part of every library in every format. The story of the escaped slave Sethe and the past that literally and figuratively haunts her is rightfully still vivid, and, in Morrison's controlled reading, the words and images linger powerfully in our mind's eye. The novel was both well researched and imaginatively constructed to show the horrors and costs of both slavery and freedom for these characters who are by turns unforgettable, tragic, and mystical. The library packaging in CD format will allow libraries to enhance their collections or replace the original 20-year-old cassette version. Highly recommended.-Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo, NY Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
"She's a masterful craftsperson, which people tend to overlook. She
is as great and as innovative as Faulkner and Garcia Marquez and
Woolf." * New York Times *
"Mercurial imagination and brilliantly elegant prose...She has the ability to shock and entrance, episode by episode, which is the hallmark of a genuine writer" * The Guardian *
"Toni Morrison's writing is a train that knows where it's going, fierce and fast-moving in narrative, lyrically showy in description" * Sunday Times *