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Beloved | [Toni Morrison]

Beloved

Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but 18 years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe's new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.
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Publisher's Summary

Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but 18 years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe's new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement.

Toni Morrison is the Robert F. Goheen Professor of Humanities at Princeton University. She has received the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. In 1993 she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She lives in Rockland County, New York, and Princeton, New Jersey.

©1987 Toni Morrison; (P)1998 Random House, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Toni Morrison is not just an important contemporary novelist but a major figure in our national literature." (New York Review of Books)
"A masterwork....Wonderful....I can't imagine American literature without it." (Los Angeles Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (613 )
5 star
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4.1 (368 )
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
4.0 (373 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Cathy Northern CA Coast 07-29-06
    Cathy Northern CA Coast 07-29-06 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Perhaps best read on paper"

    Lyrical prose is woven into this story of a compelling period in our history. The story line is believable, and is an adept portrayal of how human beings can treat and react to each other. I believe I would have enjoyed this book much more if I had consumed it with my eyes instead of my ears. I missed the opportunity to go back a few pages to check a line or re-read a paragraph. The complexity of the story is at times like the quiet taste of a familiar herb in a vibrantly constructed meal - something you can't quite place, can't quite encompass on the first pass. I would recommend this book, with the reminder that other listeners may have the same problem maintaining grasp of the elusive thread. I've listened to several hundred books, and would place this in the top 50.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John R Williford 07-14-06 Member Since 2014
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    "Author-read Books"

    I have just started listening to this book, and have decided that I will have to buy a printed copy and read its text concurrently while listening in order to make it to the end. This is the third audiobook I have purchased which is read aloud by its author, and it will be the last. I cannot understand Ms Morrison's pronunciation of many of the words. There is no differentiation in voice, so one doesn't know what character is talking or thinking. There are no pauses between the paragraphs or shifts in the time periods. [Contrast the amateurish reading of Beloved with the professionally read "The Sound and The Fury"--an even more diffcult book to follow.] Frankly, Ms Morrison is not a professional reader and subscribers are cautioned to listen to the sample [which I did not] before purchasing this audiobook. Unfortunately, Beloved is only available as an audiobook read by Ms Morrison. So readers of this review don't think I am picking on Toni Morrison, Charles Frazier's self-read of Cold Mountain suffers from the same deficiencies. Does any one know why the producers of audiobooks allow authors to read their own books? I will guess that it all has to do with retaining copyrights and royalties by the author and the author's agent.

    38 of 41 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Saint Helena, CA, USA 10-04-06
    David Saint Helena, CA, USA 10-04-06 Member Since 2013
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    "Amazing Book-Bad Audio Book"

    I love Tony Morrison, and think she is one of the best living authors. However, I had to quit this one--only the second time I have not completed an audiobook. The author reads the book in a monotonous wisper. The combination of her quiet voice and the lack of differentiation of the character's voices made it impossible to keep my attention.

    Do yourself and Tony Morrison a favor by passing on this product and picking up the paper book. I have read several of her novels and they are amazing. This audiobook would also be improved by a professional actor/reader in lieu of the author (believe it or not).

    13 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Maureen H. Lakewood, OH, USA 08-05-06
    Maureen H. Lakewood, OH, USA 08-05-06
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    "Perfect!"

    There's nothing like hearing the beautiful Music of Toni Morrison's voice reading her own work. You move as if between dream and reality, between rememory and illusion, between truth and time, alongside the complex, flawed and all-too-human characters. Of course, to some Caucasian listeners unaccustomed to the heavily dialectical reading, there may be some short adjustment. But if the listener is patient and attentive, and feels the words instead of trying to interpret them, the experience is profoundly moving and enlightening. Thank you Toni Morrison for giving such a rare and perfect gem to the audiobook world!

    19 of 21 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peregrine Los Angeles, CA, United States 11-23-07
    Peregrine Los Angeles, CA, United States 11-23-07 Member Since 2015

    If it weren't for Audible I'd never get any reading done.

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    "Morrison is a terrible reader"

    Toni Morrison reads her own book as if she's constantly out of breath. She pauses in the middle of sentences and even in the middle of words, spewing out 3 or 4 words at a time. The content is brilliant, her reading is the worst I've ever heard. I gave up half-way and just read the book once I had time.

    15 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patricia San Diego, CA, United States 02-08-13
    Patricia San Diego, CA, United States 02-08-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Magnificient - Toni Morrison's voice will haunt me"

    What a powerful book! I had a basic idea of the plot and had actually read or heard clips over the years but nothing prepared me for this powerful reading. Having the author herself read it just added to the beauty of the experience.

    I don't like to give away too much about plot lines but this is the story of a particular family of slaves, the horrors they encountered and some of the dreadful decisions they make under extreme pressure. I grew up in the old South during segregation but even that did not prepare me for this book. It was mesmerizing. And the language is simply gorgeous. And Toni Morrison's voice is haunting. This is going to have to go to the top of my list of favorite books of all times. Don't miss it.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Guillermo Palo Alto, CA, United States 10-15-11
    Guillermo Palo Alto, CA, United States 10-15-11 Member Since 2013
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    "Great novel, poor performance"

    I don't think this is the place to do reviews of the stories, techniques or narrative structure in books, so I will not comment on the novel itself (a masterpiece, by the way).

    The performance of Mrs. Morrison is not good. She has to catch her breath after each sentence and you can hear that. I tried several times to listen but I just couldn't stand it. It is annoying. Narration should be done by professional actors, not by the authors. Recording a book requires different skills than writing a book.

    I'd rather sit down, open my hardcover edition and re-read the novel. I want my money back.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hal Miami, FL, United States 06-13-06
    Hal Miami, FL, United States 06-13-06 Member Since 2007
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    "Great literature!"

    This is the most important work of fiction in the last 25 years—according to a recent NY Times survey. The audio book, read by the author, is the most powerful work I have ever listened too—and that is saying a lot. I am practically addicted to my headphones, my connection to the real world while the rest of my body lives in Costa Rica.

    This is not entertainment; it is literature—something that changes you. It is original and disturbing. It will affect your dream life. If you are the kind of person who does not dream, you will not be interested in it at all; if you do dream, be prepared for some scary trips; get ready for some changes in your life.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Everett Leiter New York, NY 07-11-06
    Everett Leiter New York, NY 07-11-06 Member Since 2012
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    "You may not like this book."

    Rated by the NY Times as the best American novel of the last 25 years, I decided to try *Beloved* by Toni Morrison. I had serious difficulty liking this book at first. It seemed to me that in the first hour or so of this book, the narrator *told* me how the characters felt. I thought, "Wouldn't it have been better to *show* me, rather than *tell* me?" I thought to myself, "Either Nobel Prize winning fiction is not what it used to be, or I am seriously deficient in my literary appreciation." I suspect that my own lack of appreciation was at fault, but I would be remiss if I did not mention that I frequently had difficulty staying awake, especially in the first half of this novel. "Suspense as taut as a rope," to quote the publisher, would not have been my tag for this book. Some friends told me, "Yes, Toni Morrison takes some getting used to." Others said, "Yes, I hear it's problematic to read. That's why I decided not to read it." Ultimately, I am very glad that I finished this book, because it had a powerful effect on me. The characters and the dilemmas they faced were fascinating and gripping. Be forewarned, however, that this novel requires active participation of the reader: it's some work to read it. The best way for me to describe it is to say that the novel contains a series of fragmentary episodes, often incompletely described. You, as the reader, have to try to piece together the events. There are abrupt shifts of time and place. Again, there is often no explicit guidance. The reader must infer where in time and place the narrative has jumped to. Perhaps, as a reader, I found it to be rather too arduous. However, in the last third or so of the novel, when all the pieces start coming together, the novel's accumulated effect was riveting. Now that I understand more about the novel's structure, I wonder whether I might enjoy re-reading (re-listening?) to it in a few years.

    22 of 26 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Melinda Shoreline, WA, United States 02-24-10
    Melinda Shoreline, WA, United States 02-24-10 Member Since 2015

    I love literary fiction and I occasionally delve into non-fiction. I love books that are suspenseful and am really into well-told stories.

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    "A Stunning Book by a Master Writer"

    Beloved is one of my favorite books of all time. I have read it in print 4 times. When my book club elected to read this and selected me to lead it, I decided to buy it in audible format to get another dimension to my 5th time through it. Toni Morrison reads, and while she is an amazing wordsmith, she isn't really an audio book actress. So, I really understand some people's comments here about it being hard to listen to. I sort of agree with you.
    If you want to read this book (or need to for school) please start with a print copy. While I found the inflections Morrison brings to the characters SHE created, I don't think that the first time through this book should be in audible form. (also, please don't go see the movie...it should never have been made)
    While these characters are forever etched into my memory and in some ways, my entire being, if this would have been my first time through Beloved, I may not have liked it. To listen to Morrison's voice after hearing my own interpretations of the voices in my head for so many year, it is a great treat for me.
    If it has been several years since you last read Beloved and you want to rediscover it a new way, I recommend this version completely.


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
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  • Deborah Richards
    7/16/06
    Overall
    "Astounding"

    The style, subject matter and structure of this book demanded a re-read; listening to it, after 3 attempts has transformed my understanding and appreciation of it. The author has an important 'voice' and hearing her read her own work is a potent experience in itself.

    This book records slavery from the slave perspective. At times harrowing and frightening it is illuminating of the slave world and humanity in general. The characterisation is strong and meaningful and Morrison's use of included and deliberately excluded elements brings the reader to the heart of the tale and lives of the characters. The style and use of language is powerful, both difficult and confusing at times but the Audible edition almost eliminates these difficulties. Having 'read' this novel before I matched what I was hearing to the text and a real sense of dawning understanding overtook me.

    Not a light listen but an incredibly important one, moving and life enhancing, it demands time and concentration; you might feel as though you'd like to give up: but perseverance and acceptance of the challenge will reward you. A truly truly a great book, made greater in this format.

    Toni Morrison is a complex and contraversial writer and this her most gritty book would be a good starting choice; introducing all the themes of her writing. As long as the plight of the dispossessed and down trodden remain at the heart of our world Morrison enables the reader to understand what it is to have nothing to fall back on except raw human nature, good or evil - somewhere in this tale is a lesson for each of us, but Morrison leaves us to work out what.

    Give this a go - it will not disappoint or fail to move you.

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Mr. N. A. Burton
    Oxon, England
    6/12/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Unbearably moving"

    Sometimes fiction can be the best way of treating reality, and this groundbreaking novel is surely a prime example of that. It explains the reality of slavery in a way which none of the first hand accounts such as Douglass, Jacobs, Equiano, Prince can do. It speaks of the depths of the human experience of those directly affected and the scars that are left both on the outside and the inside. The narrative voice is unfamiliar and takes some getting used to. Toni Morrison's expressive but understated delivery is perfect for her novel of characters who "remember as little as they dare" but gradually let their stories out despite themselves.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • A User
    5/23/11
    Overall
    "Important subject but ..."

    Such an important subject but the style was not my cup of tea. This is a very personal reason not to like it and I can see why other reviewers raved about this book. If you like poetry, read in the stereotypical way, with pauses in unusual places and metaphors abounding then this may be for you. At times it felt like I was listening to a poem that was going on for hours and hours! I found the book hard to get into and stay connected with because of the reading style. The story depicts the harrowing nature of slavery and what humans, whatever their race or background, are capable of.
    I give it three stars because I think it probably is a very well written book, covering a very difficult subject, but one that I could not appreciate because of the style of writing or reading.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • yona
    7/21/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Sitting with a great friend."
    If you could sum up Beloved in three words, what would they be?

    Excuisite and wrenching.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The narative pulls you along to meet these complex characters.


    What about Toni Morrison’s performance did you like?

    Her voice is beautiful and authentic, i felt like i was sitting listening to a great friend.


    If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    We are forever changed.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Jenny
    Redruth, United Kingdom
    11/28/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Difficult to listen too"
    What did you like best about Beloved? What did you like least?

    If the narration had been easier to listen to, I may have been able to follow the story better. The accent was good and authentic, but pausing where there are no fullstops and not pausing when there is one makes it unintelligble at times.
    I am halfway through it but I am considering giving up and moving on to something more worthwhile. I have not been able to see where the story is going.........


    How could the performance have been better?

    I don't know much about narrating books but have listened to a few now.
    Although this was not done in a monotone, it feels like it because the narrator did nothing to distinguish the different voices (as has been done so expertly in other books eg The 100year old man)This made it very confusing.
    Also pausing at fullstops and not taking breath in the middle of sentences would have helped a great deal I think.


    Was Beloved worth the listening time?

    Not for me. I am probably not going to finish it. This means I will probably never see the point of it, if there was one.


    Any additional comments?

    Professional readers are better!
    If this happens to me again I will send the book back!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Jennifer
    Tunbridge Wells, United Kingdom
    9/23/12
    Overall
    "Bad narration"

    I know in theory it's great to have the author narrate but Toni Morrison unfortunately isn't cut out for it. Her voice is so low, husky and whispery and the inflection/emphasis is peculiar, I just can't finish it. Will be looking for a version with a different narrator or possibly reading the book instead!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • A User
    5/18/11
    Overall
    "Loved Beloved"

    I loved this book and in particular hearing the author read the wonderfully poetic and sometimes searing prose.
    Like others have said you do have to take time to get used to this particular style. It works like a partnership, you the listener have to concentrate and picture the words as the author paints her horribly violent but wonderful story. It is a partnership that gives lots of rewards.
    This book stayed with me for a long time after reading it and has inspired me to find more by this author.
    Wonderful and I am only sorry I came to this so late.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Sophia
    CULLOMPTON, Devon, United Kingdom
    1/9/10
    Overall
    "I was scared witless..."

    This has to rate as one of my top ten audio books of all time. It's always a treat to hear an author read her own work and this is no exception. The pathos that Morrison's diction lends to this exemplary text makes for a stunning dramatic recording. I was gripped throughout and had switch off on several occasions, because it was too frightening to go on. This is not billed as a thriller, and nor should it be. Rather it is a terrible story. It?s not a comfortable read, but it is outstanding: for what is said, and how.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • s j bioletti
    9/23/09
    Overall
    "Riveting"

    Anyone who wants to feel what slavery was really like should listen to this. A gripping story, beautifully read, I was completely absorbed. Fantastic.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Helen
    Norwich, United Kingdom
    12/10/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Hard going"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    It's just so in-depth found myself totally lost, I know people rave about this book but I'm finding it hard going


    What will your next listen be?

    Less heaving going book


    What didn’t you like about Toni Morrison’s performance?

    Toni Morrison voice sent me off to sleep, not in a bad way but I'd wake up and have no clue what she was then talking about.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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